Claudio Reyna hasn’t laced up his cleats and played professional soccer since announcing his retirement on July 16, 2008.
While the former United States men’s national team captain doesn’t experience the thrill of representing his country or club on the playing field anymore, he’s getting his fill of excitement doing the next best thing.
On May 22, 2013, Reyna was announced as New York City FC’s Sporting Director; becoming the Club’s first employee.
“There’s nothing like playing, to be honest,” Reyna said. “Being on the field, running around and being able to compete is truly special, whether it’s representing the United States or your club. It’s pretty difficult to compare, but I think this is probably the next best thing – to be part of a club from scratch and growing it and putting ideas behind it and bringing great people on board from day one.
“When I was young one of my dreams was to be a professional soccer player. When I got older toward the end of my playing career I started to think of doing something like this. This was beyond my wildest expectations that I get to be part of a club in the greatest city in the world and to be able to build it from scratch. I’m sort of living a dream now just like I was when I was playing.”
In addition to being a native son from New Jersey, Reyna appeared 87 times for Manchester City FC from 2003-07.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of this and having my local roots makes it extra special,” he said. “My connection and relationship to Manchester City has been great. It’s an ironic situation that one of my former clubs happens to be a club that buys a team in MLS and I’m able to be a part of it. Those links are very special to me, knowing what Manchester City is all about back in England and to bring those club ethos and that culture to us here in New York is a privilege. I’m incredibly proud about what we’ve done, but more excited about the potential growth in the future.”
Reyna, who also spent time with Wolfsburg (where he was the first American to ever captain a club in Europe), Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers and Sunderland during his playing days, said one of the biggest differences between playing and working in the front office for a club is your mentality.
As a player, you’re more of an individual, he said. You’re focused on yourself, whether it’s your health, your routine, your meals. Now, Reyna has to be unselfish and devote his attention and efforts to New York City FC – the staff, the players and everyone else involved with the league’s newest organization.
“In whatever role you take on, you have to have sort of a selfless mentality because it’s no longer about you in any way,” he said. “All of my efforts have been about building a club that’s for the players and giving the staff the best opportunity to make their mark on this Club in this city. I think that’s something that’s been part of the transition; you have to step back more, let other people take the initiative and put the right people in place.”
Reyna was especially proud of his first few hires: Jason Kreis as Head Coach and David Lee as Director of Player Recruitment. The three of them form a brain trust along with other key staff to go over decisions that impact the Club, whether it’s in the present, and particularly, in the future.
“Working with Claudio has been fantastic,” Kreis said. “We see the game of soccer in a particular way that’s similar to each other. We both also place a lot of emphasis on the character of people. It’s been a really pleasurable experience to work with somebody for the last year when it hasn’t really been an easy adventure for us.”
Reyna marvels at how much the Club has grown since its inception. Not only is he proud of those accomplishments and improvements, he’s also focused on the future.
“Since day one up until today it’s just incredible to see how it’s grown – all of the different steps we’ve made along the way to get to where we are, but also the excitement of the future, knowing there’s still so much growth in our club with our fans, our players and our team,” Reyna said. “We’ll continue to build this Club in New York City while striving toward our goal of being one of the best in MLS.”