Any lingering doubts that midfielder Claudio Reyna is the U.S.'s
most indispensible offensive player disappeared last Saturday
night in San Joseand he didn't even play in that evening's
World Cup tune-up against Macedonia. Without the playmaking
Reyna, who was sidelined by a strained left calf, the Americans
were unimaginative and imprecise in a scoreless draw against a
team that failed to qualify for the Cup. The good news: Reyna is
expected to return to action on Sunday for a match against
Kuwait in Portland.
After gaining confidence while playing in Germany, Reyna has
been put in charge of the U.S. attack.
At only 24, Reyna has been charged with directing the U.S.
attack, but it took a wise career move last fall to position
himself for such responsibility. Instead of staying with German
Bundesliga titan Bayer Leverkusen, for which he had played in
only five of 34 games in 1996-97, Reyna requested a loan to VfL
Wolfsburg, a smaller Bundesliga club in a city best known as the
site of Volkswagen's world headquarters. "It was the year before
the World Cup, and I wanted to work for a starting spot on the
national team," Reyna says. "If I had been on the bench at
Leverkusen, it would have been a lot harder for Steve [Sampson,
the U.S. coach] to play me."
Since making the move, Reyna has been driving Wolfsburg and the
American team with his own brand of Fahrvergnügen. In Germany
this season he scored a goal in each of three matches against
powerhouse Bayern Munich as Wolfsburg bucked the odds and
avoided relegation to the second division. Meanwhile, Reyna
assured himself of a starting role for the U.S. with a masterly
one-goal, two-assist performance last month against Austria. "He
was given an enormous amount of responsibility at Wolfsburg, and
he has brought that confidence to the national team," says
Sampson. "He's better now not just at dribbling and scoring
goals but also at holding the ball under pressure and finding
players behind the defense with precision passes."
Happily settled in Wolfsburg with his American wife, Danielle,
and two VW's, Reyna seems far removed from his World Cup
disappointment of 1994. Slated to start at midfield for the
U.S., he missed the entire tournament with a pulled hamstring
and wondered if he would ever get another chance to play in the
event that had fascinated him as a boy in Springfield, N.J.
Claudio had watched telecasts of the 1982 tournament with his
father, Miguel, a former Argentine first division player, and
came to idolize the Brazilian scoring magician Zico. "Everything
he did on the ball was amazing," says Reyna. "I'd go outside
with my brother afterward, and we'd play one-on-one, just
banging the ball off the house."
Although he has a year left on his contract with Wolfsburg,
Reyna would consider moving elsewhere. "Players are always
changing teams after the World Cup," he says. "I'm happy at
Wolfsburg, but I'd love to be with a team that had a chance of
playing in the European club competitions. When people ask, I
always tell them I live in Europe, not Germany."
Issue date: May 25, 1998