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Why doesn’t Gio Reyna play at Nottingham Forest? USMNT success not translating to club success, yet

Gio Reyna moved clubs this past winter, earning a loan spell from Borussia Dortmund to Premier League side Nottingham Forest with the goal of seeing more minutes.

Instead, the opposite has been the case. While Reyna at least found regular minutes off the bench for a big Bundesliga club, he has been a completely forgotten entity amidst an English side battling relegation. A move that began with the promise of a return to prominence has gone belly-up fast.

So as Reyna pivoted to international duty, questions about his place within the squad began to bubble up. Notably, former Leeds United manager and past U.S. head coach candidate Jesse Marsch questioned Gio’s inclusion in the March camp.

Yet Reyna would go on to play a starring role with the U.S. against Jamaica and Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League, assisting both of the U.S. goals in extra-time of the nervy 3-1 victory over Jamaica, before scoring in the 2-0 victory over El Tri.

The performances earned Reyna the tournament’s Best Player award, sending him back to Premier League play on a high. Now, the questions have flipped from whether Reyna’s inclusion in the U.S. squad is justified, to why on Earth he doesn’t see the field for his club in England. The two simply don’t seem to coexist in the same universe.

MORE: Gio Reyna and Gregg Berhalter turn a new leaf after post-World Cup turmoil

Why isn’t Gio Reyna getting minutes at Nottingham Forest?

While there are a myriad of possible reasons for Gio Reyna’s lack of playing time at Nottingham Forest, the short answer to this question is we don’t know. Nothing seems to add up.

When Reyna arrived at Nottingham Forest, manager Nuno Espirito Santo spoke highly of the American, calling him “a very good player with a lot of potential” before speaking to his versatility within the midfield and attack.

The biggest problem seems to be that his “best” position is the No. 10, which is already occupied at Nottingham Forest by Morgan Gibbs-White, who has undoubtedly been the club’s best player amidst a trying season with few bright spots.

Yet Reyna has proven repeatedly that he can influence games in other positions, whether it be the No. 8 where Gregg Berhalter repeatedly touts his abilities, or out wide as a true winger. Another bright Forest youngster, Anthony Elanga occupies the left wing position but Gio is more of a right-sided player, so he shouldn’t be in competition with the former Manchester United youth product.

Reyna has yet to score or assist a goal for Nottingham Forest, but with 39 total minutes across four substitute appearances, can you blame him? He’s barely been given an opportunity.

There have been lingering questions about Reyna’s perceived immaturity playing a role in his failure to see the field, but those have largely been squashed (more on that later).

Competing with the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Harry Arter, Ryan Yates, Danilo, and Nico Dominguez, plus the departure of Orel Mangala to Lyon and the occasional rest needed by Gibbs-White, there should be more than enough minutes falling into Reyna’s lap. Quite simply, his lack of use by Nuno Espirito Santo makes little sense at a club which is desperate for results.

Gio Reyna success with USMNT should mean more

In the wake of the 2022 World Cup and the subsequent revelation that Gio Reyna was used sparingly by U.S. boss Gregg Berhalter thanks in part to his lack of effort in training, questions began to simmer about whether a similar maturity issue plagued the young American at the club level.

The 21-year-old had been electric off the bench for numerous occasions with Borussia Dortmund, yet he never seemed to crack the starting lineup on a regular basis. Injuries dogged his young career, sure, but once healthy and in a position to contribute consistently, he never seemed to get the chance.

Thus, the natural conclusion seemed to be an attitude problem, and those concerns were only reinforced as he moved to Nottingham Forest with the goal of seeing more playing time but instead seeing less. Again, the natural conclusion was that if yet another club — one in a relegation battle, no less — wasn’t giving Reyna playing time despite clear evidence of talent, it’s another data point towards suggesting an issue behind the scenes.

Now, however, in the wake of the March international break, that theory seems to have been dismantled entirely. Not only was Reyna exceptional on the field in multiple different roles for the USMNT, but he carried himself with professionalism while speaking to the media for the first time in literal years, and garnered excessive plaudits from his teammates and coach.

Gregg Berhalter vociferously defended Reyna from outside criticism largely unprompted, and his teammates used phrases like “killing it” and “the kid’s unbelievable” while discussing his attitude and performance.

Berhalter has been touting Reyna’s ability to play the No. 8 position for quite a while now, and his performance against Mexico was the best example yet of his capabilities at that spot. He was exceptional in the 2-0 USMNT victory, both progressing the U.S. possession forward and limiting the advancement of the Mexican build-up. Occasionally dropping all the way into a right-back position, Reyna’s influence was a key reason why the combination of Hirving Lozano, Edson Alvarez, and Luis Chavez combined for four touches in the U.S. penalty area and 17 passes into the attacking third.

Reyna has already shown he can play on the wing at a high level, serving as both a No. 10 and winger in a bright performance in the friendly defeat to Germany last year, and contributing to the Borussia Dortmund attack out wide on plenty of occasions.

And anyways, while Nuno may prefer the more established players like Gibbs-White, Hudson-Odoi, and Divock Origi to name a few, it hasn’t worked to this point, has it? Does he wish to continue plodding along with the same failing stars while at the same time lamenting the club’s inability to kill off games? Origi and Hudson-Odoi have combined for four goals and three assists in almost 1,500 minutes of Premier League action, and even Gibbs-White’s three goal, five assist haul in nearly 2,400 minutes is far from undroppable. The only truly laudatory production has come from Elanga, whose five goals and seven assists across just shy of 2,000 minutes have proven invaluable.

After Reyna’s most recent international performances, even the local media in England are calling for Reyna to see the field. If Nuno fails to give Reyna a real chance to shine in this same role at Nottingham Forest, he’s denying the club a positive and versatile player who can contribute significantly to their Premier League survival. All he has to do is look at the tape and let Reyna cook.

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