The Gio Reyna enigma: Trying to understand the USMNT star's struggles in club football

Gio Reyna is just 21 and regularly showcases his incredible talent for the USMNT, but his story at the club level is far from similar.

Mexico v United States: Final - Concacaf Nations League
Mexico v United States: Final - Concacaf Nations League / John Dorton/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages
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It’s a beautiful night for soccer while fans pack the AT&T Stadium in Texas ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League final between bitter rivals, Mexico and the USA. Greg Berhalter gave Gio Reyna the nod to start this final after he was used as a substitute and impressed with a pair of extra time assists in the semifinals. And the faith paid off, as Reyna scored the second in the USMNT's 2-0 victory, an impressive shot to say the least. The United States were crowned CONCACAF Nations League winners, and Gio Reyna won the best player of the tournament award. Yet this feels so contradictory to his story at the club level, where he often struggles to find any minutes at all. 

I know Gio Reyna has talent, and we witnessed this in glimpses last season when BVB challenged for the Bundesliga title. Reyna was frequently used as a substitute and found crucial goals on multiple occasions. It had seemed like only a matter of time before he broke into the starting XI on a regular basis. Yet, on the rare occasions Gio did start, he would frequently underwhelm and fail to successfully integrate into the system. He had almost too much success as a substitute that he started being relegated to that very role. He amassed seven goals and two assists across 22 appearances for BVB.  

Many thought last season would be Reyna's breakout, but that never materialised. And things took a similar turn this hinrunde, as he only managed 11 appearances without a single goal contribution. At no point did Gio play a full 90-minutes, and many of his appearances were cameos after the 80th minute. With sporadic game time, and the arrival of Jadon Sancho, it was no wonder Gio pushed for a loan deal in January.

Since moving to relegation-threatened Premier League side Nottingham Forest, Gio has made four appearances, the longest being 17 minutes in a 3-2 loss to Newcastle, and the shortest being a single minute in a 1-0 FA Cup loss to Manchester United. It remains baffling that a player of Gio Reyna’s caliber is unable to break into a squad that has won one of their last 12 outings. Calling the loan spell thus far disappointing would be an understatement.