It may be hard for Claudio Reyna to say goodbye to New York City FC — the team he helped build from a 2015 MLS expansion entrant to one of the league’s most consistent franchises — but he’s very excited to say hello to Austin FC.
Reyna was unveiled as the team’s new sporting director in a Thursday conference call with Austin FC CEO Anthony Precourt. Reyna, according to Austin FC’s news release was the first employee and architect of the launch of NYCFC’s soccer operations, joining in 2013 and managing both the first team and academy operations over his six-year tenure.
Reyna is also, of course, a legendary American player, with 112 international appearances, eight goals, and four straight World Cup appearances between 1994 and 2006. His club career included stops in Germany (with Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg), England (famously, with Manchester City as well as with Sunderland), Scotland (with Rangers), and before his retirement in 2008, with the New York Red Bulls to close out his pro career.
On the call, Precourt expressed excitement for the hire. He noted that Reyna joining forces with head coach Josh Wolff, 16 months out from the team’s 2021 debut, “demonstrates our ownership’s commitment to investing in the best possible product we can put on the field.”
“Claudio checks a lot of boxes for us,” Precourt said. “He’s a respected leader with super high integrity, he’s an experienced soccer executive within a winning organization — NYC has been in the playoffs the last four of five years. He understands MLS like the weather, all the acquisition mechanisms, as well as having an understanding about the global marketplace. And he’s got an exceptional eye for talent and a keen understanding of what it takes to build an academy.”
Reyna similarly expressed anticipation for his new post.
“The expectation that they have for this club, and the standards that they want to want to create among MLS really fits my ambition,” Reyna said of the Austin FC front office. “It’s obvious that they have an ownership group that’s committed to doing things right. And, you know, it goes without saying that Austin is an amazing city. There’s a thriving soccer community, a large Hispanic fan base as well that is passionate about the sport. And, of course, being able to work with people like Josh will make it much easier for me to make this jump.”
Reyna sees the work of building a roster as a total team effort, involving scouts and other personnel. He even noted, in his efforts to create a team that will be ready to play in MLS for the 2021 season, that he’ll use data and interviews from former teammates and coaches of prospective players to formulate decisions about who will be on the roster.
But he emphasized the players coming to Austin are going to have to really want it as well.
“It’s important that we also stay disciplined and focused in building a squad with the salary cap and the various restrictions we have. The most important thing for me is making sure that players want to be here for the right reasons,” Reyna said. “I’m sure those are the type of players who will be attracted to Austin, that are going to give 100 percent. They’re going to be welcome, they’re going to be welcomed into the Austin FC family right away and they’re going to be successful.
“That’s something that I take great pride in. We have to have a club that when the players rise, we make them better, we improve them, we push them. We get them to work together with their teammates and staff, and we need to sacrifice for each other.”
Those players are just hypothetical right now. Reyna echoed prior indications from the front office that the 2020 summer transfer window is the likely time for Austin FC’s first players to be announced.
But Reyna will get to work with Wolff — who will be in Austin full-time next month following the completion of his tenure with the U.S. men’s national team — on literally scouting the globe for talent.
“I’m open to players from all leagues,” he said. “Any country.”