New York City FC got off on the right foot this week when they named Claudio Reyna Director of Football Operations in the clubs first hire. Local boy Reyna was raised in New Jersey where he learned his soccer on the way to one of the most successful careers for an American in top flight soccer.
Reyna racked up 111 caps for the United States, he was selected for four World Cup and appeared in three, while serving as the United States captain for many years. A pioneer of sorts, Reyna was one of the first Americans to carve out a career in Europe at a time when there was no Division One professional league in the U.S.
Reyna broke barriers when he became the first American to captain a European club at German Bundesliga club Wolfsburg, and as U.S. captain Reyna earned the nickname Captain America during his European playing days.
Reyna also played for Glasgow Rangers, Sunderland and significantly Manchester City, making this move almost seem inevitable. The former midfielder had to resign his post as U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director, a job he held for three years.
In that position Reyna was responsible for designing and implementing a program that would lay the groundwork for soccer in this country, instilling a playing style from the youth all the way up to the full national team, a job Reyna leaves incomplete.
Reyna sought to emulate European club models when he revamped the Academy system. The most controversial change came when the academy season was extended, forcing teenagers to choose between between high school soccer and their academy clubs.
Reyna also leaves behind a blueprint for U.S. Youth soccer, a document he released, that among other things directs all youth teams to play the same style, in a 4-3-3 system, to promote continuity up to the senior team.
Recent failures by the U.S. U23 and U17 sides have cast something of a pall over the youth system, that has only partly been ameliorated by the success the U20 team has enjoyed by advancing to the U20 World Cup this summer in Turkey.
Still Major League Soccer’s newest member did well to hire Reyna and avoid the mistakes of rival New York Red Bulls, like NYC FC another foreign owned club, who entrusted the running of their team to a group of Europeans with zero profile in the New York marketplace.
Reyna remains a big figure in American soccer and the New York area, and his name will carry weight as New York City FC go about building a staff of scouts, coaches and players. Adding Reyna’s reputation to the mix along with Manchester City and the Yankees may even help City, is that what we’ll be calling them?, gain some traction in the New York media, where Red Bulls have struggled mightily for years.
And while Reyna has much to prove as an executive, keep in mind that he will hardly be flying solo. Whatever your opinion of Manchester City, they have been in the game and their experienced staff can be a network for Reyna to lean on. Hopefully, Reyna will in fact play a leading role in running the club. One sure way for this club to fail, would be if the club were run from 3,000 miles away, with Reyna serving as a figurehead.
An interesting side note is that Reyna finished his playing days as a Red Bull. It was a disappointing stint, sabotaged by injury. Just a few months ago Reyna was rumored to be ready to accept an assistant coaching position with Red Bulls, now he is the first face to be attached to the new team in town, in what MLS is hoping will be a big time rivalry.
Time will tell on how that rivalry develops, and it will take time too to answer all the other unknowns around New York City FC, like where will they play their games. For now though, it looks like NYC FC have made a solid start.