Can Nottingham Forest move ignite Gio Reyna’s stalled career?



Can Nottingham Forest move ignite Gio Reyna’s stalled career?

After struggling for game time with Borussia Dortmund, the USMNT star has signed for the Premier League club on a loan for the remainder of the season

Gio Reyna needs to play. That – a lack of game time – has become the defining issue of the young American’s career. A series of injuries, followed by a nasty feud between his  family and coach around the 2022 World Cup, halted his development as one of the most exciting young talents ever produced by the United States. This season, Reyna has been out of favour at Borussia Dortmund , but a loan move to the Premier League could help him see the forest through the trees again.

Nottingham Forest have given Reyna an opportunity to get his career back on track and he must make the most of it. The 21-year-old is only be on loan at the City Ground until the end of the season, but the next few months could profoundly alter Reyna’s trajectory. This is a big chance to make up for lost time.

Not since the 2020-21 season has Reyna played something close to a full campaign. Injuries robbed him of nearly two full seasons, but Reyna has been generally fit and available since last summer, yet he has started just one Bundesliga match in that time. Dortmund head coach Edin Terzic was understandably cautious not to rush Reyna back from injury, but he has since become an afterthought. There’s no plan for his development there.

It wasn’t so long ago that Reyna was widely seen as Borussia Dortmund’s next wonderkid. He made his Bundesliga debut at the age of just 17 years and 66 days, beating Christian Pulisic’s record to become the youngest American to ever feature in the German top flight. Reyna was a key figure for the Black and Yellows well before he was out his teens. Most assumed he would use the club as a stepping stone just as many others have done in the past.

There was deliberate symbolism in Dortmund’s decision to hand Reyna the No 7 shirt after Jadon Sancho’s £73m transfer to Manchester United, but at some point the Bundesliga club lost faith in him. Terzic had countless opportunities to re-integrate Reyna this season, but has chosen not to. He had no choice but to get out.
Joining Forest – even on loan – is risky. The bottom end of the Premier League hasn’t been kind to Americans recently (see Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie last season), but there could be tremendous upside to this particular move.

If Reyna can succeed in Europe’s strongest league, he can probably succeed anywhere. His reputation will be restored.

The circumstances at Nottingham Forest will be challenging. The club was recently charged with breaching Premier League Sustainability and Profit rules (PSR) and could face a points deduction. Anything like the 10-point penalty handed to Everton for similar violations would plunge Forest deep into relegation trouble. And it’s not like the City Ground has been the most stable environment for new signings over the last two seasons: Reyna is Forest’s 42nd signing over the last four transfer windows, and Nuno Espírito Santo is still settling in as the club’s new manager after replacing Steve Cooper in December. Reyna may struggle to hit the ground running in such a volatile setting.

Most importantly: Morgan Gibbs-White currently serves as Forest’s creative hub. And he plays in Reyna’s preferred position – No 10 – sitting behind a lone striker. Dortmund dabbled with pushing Reyna into wider positions to give him some minutes this season, but he still operates at his best in a free role in the middle of the pitch. Given the competition, the newbie will have to force his way into the lineup. If that’s playing further out wide, it could compromise his role with the USMNT.

Reyna will have to adapt his natural game style, too. Forest under Nuno play a more counterattacking style than Reyna was used to at Dortmund. Only Sheffield United, Luton and Everton have averaged a lower share of possession per match than Forest this season. If, however, Reyna is as talented as he’s widely believed to be, he will find a way to squeeze into the team and make an impact.

Of course, so much depends on whether or not Reyna’s fitness will hold up. If he can string together a run of matches, his ability will surely shine through. His impressive post-World Cup form for the USMNT served as a reminder of how good he can be. At his best, Reyna is a one-man attacking dynamo.
Some USMNT fans may be disappointed that Reyna has ended up on such a low rung of the Premier League ladder. It wasn’t so long ago that the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City (who Gio’s father Claudio Reyna played for) were seen as potential suitors. Even this month, top four-chasing Aston Villa were linked. Forest aren’t on the same level.

This, however, reflects the situation Reyna finds himself in now. He may be the most naturally talented player ever produced by the US, but talent only counts for so much at the elite level. He is at Forest, not Liverpool or Manchester City, because there are so many questions around him. Can he stay fit? What is his best position? Does he lack discipline? The best teams can’t wait much longer for Reyna to provide some answers.


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