Giovanni Reyna: The American Dream Shining in Jadon Sancho's Absence

Oct 4, 2020, 1:15 PM GMT+1
Giovanni Reyna
Giovanni Reyna has started the new Bundesliga season in red hot form | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

As the fourth official flashed the number 32 on his board, Giovanni Reyna trotted to the nearest touchline and was treated to a sight not often seen around the footballing world in the past six months.

As the 17-year-old made his way round the pitch, the 11,000 or so Borussia Dortmund fans thinly spread around Signal-Iduna Park took to their feet to give Reyna a standing ovation. Deserved recognition after laying on three assists in a 4-0 romp against Freiburg.

Going into the contest, the conditions were all there for Dortmund to fall into their seasonal downward spiral earlier than normal. Hosting far from straight-forward opponents on the back of consecutive defeats and without the talismanic figure of Jadon Sancho.

Yet, in the Englishman's absence, Reyna came to the fore in his best performance for the Black and Yellows, which, despite the nascent stage of his career, is saying something.

With all the positional freedom in the world, Reyna floated menacingly behind the tip of Dortmund's attack, picking up the ball between the lines of Freiburg's rigid 5-2-3 out of possession and driving forward. Yet, this threat on the ball wasn't born out of neglected defensive duties. Reyna not only completed more dribbles than any other player on the pitch, but he also executed more tackles.

It was from these quick turnovers in possession where Reyna - and Dortmund as a whole - looked most threatening.

Manuel Gulde, Giovanni Reyna
Giovanni Reyna didn't neglect his defensive duties against Freiburg | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

At times, Lucien Favre's BVB can be infuriatingly passive out of possession, which seems like a wasted opportunity given the clear threat their fleet-footed frontline offer in transition. However, just minutes after squandering a chance to attack Freiburg during a rare moment of disorganisation, Marco Reus stole the ball inside their opponent's half.

Reyna took up the baton and slipped in Erling Håland for the game's opening goal after half an hour. Reyna's pass was weighted to perfection, allowing his Norwegian teammate to run onto the ball for a first-time shot.

In the second half, the pair combined again with a near identical move. Reyna snaffled up a loose pass at the back and waited patiently as Håland charged beyond him before teeing up Dortmund's number nine for his second one-touch finish and the club's third of the afternoon.

For the second home game on the spin, Håland - never one to be considered a particularly loquacious interviewee - referred to Reyna exclusively as 'The American Dream', telling the Bundesliga: "The American dream, finally he plays me the ball and then it gets dangerous."

After a brutally prolific start to his Dortmund career - 21 goals in his first 23 games - there is little reason to argue with Håland's assessment of his own goal threat. Reyna has evidently taken note of this sentiment.

Four of the young American's five assists for Dortmund have found the feet of Håland - not including a penalty Reyna won against Borussia Mönchengladbach which the 20-year-old striker converted. Emre Can is the only other goalscoring beneficiary of a Reyna pass, thumping in a header from the teenager's corner between Håland's brace against Freiburg.

Reyna's trio of assists was simply a continuation of the exceptional displays he has so regularly churned out after breaking into the first-team squad in the second half of last season. The Durham-born midfielder has taken another leap forward in the current campaign.

Having been afforded just two starts across all competitions in the previous season, Reyna has already appeared four times from the first whistle this term.

While Sancho's future is cast in doubt by Manchester United's continued pursuit, Reyna has done his best to overshadow the absence of the England international. Of course, Sancho and Reyna can, have and - if you ask Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc - will, thrive in the same starting lineup.

Wherever Sancho's destination may be, Reyna's immediate future not only lies in the Ruhr region, but is the stuff of dreams.