Weston McKennie had plenty to celebrate about in 2020. (Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)
During a year that saw many U.S. men’s national team players solidify their spots in the Starting XI and on the roster of many European and South American clubs, two performers stood out.
Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna have emerged as attacking forces for their respective clubs, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund, respectively.
And they are hardly just any other teams. Juve is the defending Italian Serie A champions, coached by former Italian international and New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Dortmund is a Bundesliga powerhouse in Germany.
Not surprisingly, both players earned U.S. Soccer honors – McKennie as the organization’s male player of the year and Reyna as its young male player of the year.
But their value has gone behind awards.
McKennie, 22, was loaned by Schalke to Juventus prior to the season and he has become one of the team’s most pleasant surprises as an attacking midfielder.
After joining the club, McKennie slotted straight into Pirlo’s starting XI for the club’s season opener three weeks later. The dominant midfielder has provided a forceful presence for the Serie A side, appearing in 13 matches across all competitions, including five in the UEFA Champions League, where he helped Juventus advance to the Round of 16.
McKennie has recorded two goals and an assist in his last four matches. He became only the third American to score in Serie A when his 80th minute header sparked a 2-1 comeback win against Torino in the Derby della Mole Dec. 5 before his stunning acrobatic strike in Juve’s 3-0 Champions League win over Barcelona three days later. McKennie provided an assist to Paulo Dybala to open the scoring in the club’s 3-1 win against Genoa Dec. 13.
In a year where the opportunity to represent the USMNT was limited, McKennie made two appearances, winning man of the match honors in the scoreless draw with Wales Nov. 12 before helping the USA to a 6-2 win over Panama Nov. 16.
Reyna, who turned 18 last month, made his UEFA Champions League debut against Paris-Saint Germain Feb. 18, contributing to both of Dortmund’s goals in a 2-1 victory. Reyna made regular substitute appearances for Dortmund when the soccer world was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The forward picked up where he left off when the Bundesliga restarted in May, appearing in seven of nine games to close out the season.
During the 2020-21 season, Reyna has made the jump from regular appearances to regular starts for Dortmund. He has played in all 13 league games for Dortmund this fall, starting 10, recording three goals and four assists. Reyna has also made his mark in the Champions League, where he has started four games and appeared in all six of Dortmund’s matches.
In his second USMNT appearance, Reyna tallied his first international goal in victory over Panama in Austria four days after making his international debut against Wales four days prior.