Claudio Reyna, current NYCFC Sporting Director and former US National Team legend, began his career as a standout on the 1994 US World Cup squad before blazing a trail for American players in Europe. Stops in Germany, Scotland, and the English Premier League cemented his legacy as an American soccer icon before he returned to New Jersey for a stint with Bruce Arena's New York Red Bulls.
University of Virginia, 1991-1993
Reyna would first break out as a star under the tutelage of then-future US National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena. Arena had built a dynasty at the University of Virginia, and Reyna became the centerpiece of the squad, leading them to a national title each of the three seasons he played.
As far as individual honors go, Reyna won the Hermann Trophy, given to the best player in the NCAA, in 1993, and was named the player of the year by Soccer America Magazine in 1992 and 1993.
"It was a great honor," says Reyna of his titles.
"I had excellent teammates, I was on a great team, we were champions, and also we had a fantastic coach in Bruce Arena, who is currently the head coach of the US National Team."
Bayer Leverkusen, 1994-1997
Reyna was selected to the 1994 US National Team squad to compete in the World Cup. He was the youngest player in the squad, and although he didn't see the field due to an injury he'd picked up, he made an impression simply by way of his inclusion. That impression turned into a contract offer from Leverkusen.
"They were a small club," remembers Reyna, "that the fans were rooting for towards the end of the year to win the title.
"We didn't win the title, we came in second. It was a little disappointing, but still a great achievement for Bayer Leverkusen."
Though playing time didn't always come easily for Reyna at Leverkusen, other clubs took notice of the impact he made when on the pitch. Soon, he was a first-team regular at another Bundesliga club.
VfL Wolfsburg, 1997-1999
During his time at Wolfsburg, Reyna would establish himself as a key player for a club that saw unprecedented success during his tenure. He became the first American player to captain a European club and made over 50 appearances in his two seasons with the Lower Saxony club.
"I was part of Wolfsburg's first step into the Bundesliga, and obviously it's still great to see them go onto bigger and better things," says Reyna.
"They're one of the teams that are always challenging for a Champions League spot in the Bundesliga."
After the 1998 season with Wolfsburg, Reyna would make his FIFA World Cup debut for the United States in France.
Scottish superclub Glasgow Rangers couldn't resist the prospect of signing Claudio Reyna after his impressive years in Germany, and in 1999, they brought him aboard in a deal worth just over $3.5 million.
In his 64 appearances for the Glaswegian giants, he scored ten goals, playing most of his minutes on the right wing.
"It was incredible. The moment I landed there, I had to, first of all, try to understand Scottish," Reyna recalls with a laugh. "I think I could understand German better than Scottish the first couple of weeks there.
"The club was incredible. Our head coach was Dick Advocaat, we had great international players, we were competing in the Champions League, and for me, it was the first time having that experience.
More than anything, Reyna remembers the Old Firm matches against Celtic from his time with Rangers.
"Obviously the rivalry with Celtic was amazing. I have a lot of both good and bad memories of the Old Firm games.
"We won the title there at the end of my first season. We won 3-0 and clinched the title, so that was a special day.
"But every game took a life of its own. The rivalry, the commitment that both teams put into those games was something I had never seen anywhere. Win or lose, you couldn't leave your house for a couple of days, but it was a really, really special experience and a game that, if not the best derby in the world, it's one of them for sure.
"The club was so good to me and to my family. We had our first children there, as well, growing up in Glasgow. During my time there, we had a really, really good team and won some titles, so nothing but positive memories and experiences from my time in Glasgow."
"It was always a goal of mine to try to play in England, in the Premier League with some of the best players in the world, and Sunderland gave me that opportunity," says Reyna of his first taste of the Premier League.
"It's a fantastic club, passionate supporters, beautiful stadium. Obviously, there's an intense rivalry with their neighbors to the north, Newcastle. My time there was shorter than I'd hoped for, but it was a great time, we had our second boy born there, as well, so I'll always remember it as a special place for our family."
During his stint with Sunderland, Reyna would play in his second World Cup, helping Bruce Arena's USA team shock the world with a trip to the quarterfinals, where they narrowly lost to eventual runners-up Germany.
Reyna scored three goals in just 28 appearances for Sunderland, seeing his second season derailed by an ACL injury that sidelined him for the first half of 2003. Fortunately, his injury wouldn't keep him from embarking on another Premier League journey.
Manchester City, 2003-2007
"When I had the opportunity to go to Manchester, it was, for me, an exciting move," says Reyna.
Reyna's time with Sunderland was cut short, but during his four-year stay with Manchester City, he would make 87 appearances, scoring four goals and becoming a fan favorite.
"To move to another big club, to be managed by Kevin Keegan, I had always seen his teams play very exciting, attacking styles of football. He was trying to build a team with a lot of creative attacking players, and it was an exciting time for the club.
"He brought stability to the club, and obviously they've gone on to bigger and better things since that time."
Reyna's third and final World Cup appearance with the USA would come during his tenure with Manchester City, as well. Soon, however, he would be reunited with US National Team head coach and his home state of New Jersey via a move to the Red Bulls in January of 2007.
After retiring from professional football in 2008, Reyna was selected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012 and was named as the Sporting Director of New York City FC in 2013.
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