DUSSELDORF, Germany — Giovanni Reina enters the room. He sits down. He leans back in his chair and after maybe 30 seconds of small talk, he says, “Look, I don’t want to look back. At all”. He smiles.

Reyna is not reckless. He had, by any measure, a brutal year. There was a hamstring. It was a hip. There was a hamstring. There was a tweak. There was an illness. There was a seizure. Reina is only 19 years old but has already gotten a taste of middle age and the injuries never seem to stop. Reina has missed 34 of Borussia Dortmund’s last 45 matches and 15 of their last 19 matches for the USA in the last 12 months. Watching so much football instead of playing? Reyna turned pale. He withered.

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So it makes sense that he wants to look ahead. With only eight weeks left before the World Championships, Reyna is finally healthy. He and his coaches, including Team USA boss Gregg Berhalter, are careful not to overdo their workload too early, but there are very (very) few positives for the United States stemming from Friday’s 2-0 loss to Japan in Dusseldorf. The first start for the Americans since September last year was significant.

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Reyna was hardly surprising. No one in the US, with the exception of goaltender Matt Turner, shone against Japan. Any team that doesn’t score on goal despite nearly 60 percent possession of the ball deserves the criticism it receives.

Nevertheless, Reyna showed flashes. The best chance for the USA came in the first half when he made a pass and Sergino Dest broke over the edge and then crossed to Jesús Ferreira just in front of the net. Ferreira heading unsuccessfully was unfortunate, but the play leading up to it was exactly what the fans (and Berhalter) craved.

The same was true for the scene where Reina took the ball in his own half and ran, running into and out of the defenders as the US moved solo into the attacking third. Berhalter has typically used Reina extensively in the past, but this week he admitted he appreciates Reina’s ability to play the ball in a more central role. Against Japan, Reina completed 9 of 11 passes, 3 of 4 in the attacking third, and registered two progressive shots and one progressive pass (events in the opposition’s half that move the ball five or ten yards into goal respectively). It seems almost inevitable that Reina will find herself in the middle of the game when the US needs to pick up the pace.

“They don’t say that in football, but I think my playing ability can hurt the other team,” says Reyna. “For example, in basketball or football, when someone has a ball, you can create something out of nothing or create chances. And I think that’s what I can do, whether it’s dribble, pass or combination – I think I can do a little bit of everything. And that’s exactly what I love to do.”

So did his father, Claudio. On Friday, Gio wore #21 instead of #7 as a tribute to his father, the national team legend who wore #21 for the USA at the 1998 World Cup in France.

It was an intriguing choice. Family heritage has been a perennial issue for Gio ever since he was an academy player (his mother, Danielle Egan, also played for the USA on the women’s national team), and this contributes to the high expectations placed on him.

Reyna usually avoids talking much about her parents or siblings. But earlier this week, when he, despite his initial vow, allowed himself to think more deeply about what he had been through in the last 12 months, he shook his head, saying that his family needed help in the most difficult situations. . moments.

“I had very, very difficult days,” says Reyna. “Some people are very, very, you know, don’t want to do anything, they just sit in my room all day. They don’t want to go outside. Not in the mood to talk to friends.”

He shrugs. “You know it’s frustrating? You miss games, you miss training, you come back to America when you were supposed to play in Dortmund.

To their credit, says Reina, Dortmund allowed him to return to the United States for part of his rehabilitation, which helped, at least psychologically. Being close to the positivity of his family – and not having to see up close everything that goes on in Germany without him – allowed him to focus on what he needed to do, rather than what he lacked. Berhalter, who visited them regularly, says he realized very quickly that Reyna had strong preferences about how their conversations should go.

“He was one of those guys who stopped talking about his injury after a while,” says Berhalter. “His eyes were directed forward. That’s all”.

Now the question is how Reina avoids what he (and everyone around Team USA) fears: relapse. Another knock. Another run where he pulls up.

Reyna says he has been constantly working on strengthening his legs during rehab, but he has no plans to change his style or approach when he is on the field. He wants to be – and has been waiting for this moment – ​​the driving force the US will need in Qatar.

“I played in the Champions League,” says Reina. “And the only thing that was really on my wish list as a kid — ever since I first started watching football — was to play in the World Cup with Team USA.”

He is laughing. “It’s not fully realized yet,” he says. “I’m sure it will probably be closer to the first game, but I’m so excited. It will be a great experience for all of us.”