What Reyna Means
Graig Carbino argues in defense of Claudio Reyna's time in Major League Soccer, a situation never likely to work out for one of the greats of US soccer.
By Graig Carbino
ALBANY, NY (July 21, 2008) USSoccerPlayers -- Claudio Reyna has packed up his equipment and gone home for the final time. He announced his retirement on Wednesday after fourteen wonderful years as a professional soccer player. His career took him and his family to Germany, Scotland, England and back.
Reyna summed up his career by saying “For the past 14 years, the game of soccer has granted me so many opportunities in life. I have been fortunate enough to represent my country at the highest level and play the sport I love in stadiums and places I could have only dreamed of when I was growing up.”
You need to read the first 5 words of the previous quote to really understand what Reyna has accomplished. Look at his career “for the past 14 years.” Look at the entire story, not just the past year and a half. Unfortunately, it looks like some fans (many from north Jersey) have decided to take a more short sided approach.
In their version, Claudio Reyna did them no favors and was detrimental in yet another attempt to not make the later rounds of the playoffs. Fan expectation is what it is, but it seems a bit naive to put that on a true hero for most of us that follow American soccer.
Pundits and observers alike tend to slight Reyna because he was never the flashy player that trolled box-to-box and scored goals by the boatload. The subtly in his game and the lack of a true positional label may have swayed their vision as to what he truly brought to the table.
He was never going to just be a “defensive midfielder”. His game was better than that. Sure, he tackled when he had to, but you could tell just by watching a few games that breaking up plays by sitting in front of the back four was not his style.
Reyna was also never a pure “number 10”. He didn’t always get forward and pull the strings for his team. He did that when the moment called for it, but he never forced himself into the limelight of any match. If Reyna could sit in the middle of the field and control the tempo of a game then that is what he did. He would speed things up and slow them down with the precision of a symphony maestro and was perfectly content with staying off the score sheet as long as his team took all three points.
I’ll admit it. I never saw Reyna play in Scotland or much in England either. I watched a few games when he was winding down at Manchester City but nothing from his prime days with Rangers. I did see plenty of the 2002 World Cup from Korea and Japan.
If you watched those games, especially the final US game in the quarterfinals against Germany, you saw Reyna at his best. He didn’t score goals or “walk past” an opposing teams defense. What he did was pass, create, control, mediate, conduct and lead. Look, you do not make a World Cup All-Tournament Team without doing something very special.
I’ve read other insane comments and articles that have discussed Reyna’s tenure with RBNY. It gets to be down right foolish and almost comedic when you see things like “Reyna hosed MLS” and he should have retired after he left Manchester City in 2007.
Seriously? Hosed them? How so?
This is the part about “fans” that I do not understand. Maybe it’s because I was never a supporter of any one particular MLS team. My understanding of how sports work, or any business for that matter, is that players (employees) try to build a resume of experience and then get as much money from their respective clubs (employers) as possible. It’s fair in the “real world” and it is fair in sports.
Did Reyna do everything that MLS and RBNY had hoped for when they signed him? Of course not. That situation was bound for disaster from the start. An aging veteran with a history of injury problems comes back to his hometown team and is expected to carry them to their first ever championship. Oh yeah, and he has to do it on a hideous playing surface in a dumpy stadium in front of fans who have continually shown that unless Beckham or Barcelona show up they could really care less about the team. Sounds like fun.
Reyna signed with MLS because they wanted him, not because he had to. He did his best to make it work but in the end his body finally said enough is enough. Do we take these painful 18 months as a microcosm of what Reyna’s career truly was? If you saw what he gave to country and club, how could you?
Graig Carbino writes a weekly column for USSoccerPlayers. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org