United States attacker Gio Reyna is relishing a potential battle with rising England star Jude Bellingham with the Borussia Dortmund team-mates poised to face off at the World Cup on Friday.
Reyna, who sat out the USA’s 1-1 draw with Wales on Monday but is expected to feature this time, has forged a close bond with Bellingham since the English teenager joined Dortmund two years ago.
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Reyna, 20, said Bellingham had been a source of support during the American’s injury-ravaged 2020-2021 season, where he hardly played.
“He’s definitely my best friend at Dortmund,” Reyna said. “We have a really close relationship on and off the field.
“He’s been really great with me over the last year, just talking with me. Obviously it’s been a tough year for me.
“But he’s been the one that’s been reaching out the most, making sure everything’s all good.
“We sit next to each other on the bus, and when we fly anywhere we’re sitting close to each other as well. We really feed off each other, on and off the field. He’s a great player and a great guy.”
Bellingham, 19, produced a dazzling performance in England’s 6-2 win over Iran on Monday, confirming his status as one of the brightest young talents in world football.
It was the kind of performance that comes as no surprise to Reyna, who has witnessed the English midfielder’s rapid evolution up close over the past two seasons.
“If you make it to the highest level you do have to be competitive. He’s a competitor and he can pretty much do everything on the field. He can play left wing, right back, both pretty well,” said Reyna.
“He’s learned a lot the last few years. You can see the evolution game by game, the little things he’s learned and got better at,” added Reyna.
“It’s awesome to see.”
– ‘I’m ready’ –
Reyna’s own World Cup has yet to ignite, with the American a frustrated spectator from the bench against Wales, where the Americans conceded a late penalty to let three points go begging.
That result has raised the stakes for Friday’s game against England, where a defeat may well prove terminal to US hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
Coach Gregg Berhalter — who played in the same New Jersey school team alongside Reyna’s former US international father Claudio — is expected to play the Dortmund youngster on Friday.
Berhalter suggested on Monday that Reyna was struggling with a fitness issue, but the forward has declared himself fully fit to play.
“I always knew I was going to be ready for this moment,” Reyna said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. I’m ready to help the team.”
Reyna, who was born in England in 2002 during his father’s stint with Sunderland, says his dad will be watching in Doha.
Claudio Reyna played in four World Cups for the United States during an international career that spanned 112 caps, and has told his son to savour his World Cup debut.
“My dad doesn’t like to talk about himself,” Reyna said. “But you do talk about it. I was always interested to know what he did growing up, and I’m his biggest fan.
“He told me this is a moment I shouldn’t take for granted and just enjoy it.
“World Cups don’t come around too often so it’s a special moment.”