UVA soccer legend Reyna retires

Reyna was captain of the U.S. National team when they went to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals– the furthest the Americans had ever advanced.
Reyna captained the U.S. National team to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup– the furthest an American team has ever advanced.
COURTESY OF U.S. SOCCER

Seventeen years after he first donned the orange and blue for the University of Virginia soccer team, on Wednesday, midfielder Claudio Reyna announced his retirement from the game, capping a career that not only put UVA on the soccer map, but also elevated the reputation of American soccer in the eyes of the world. Reyna will turn 35 this Sunday and, fighting off tears, told reporters at a New York press conference that, "I'm very proud, not so much of what I did but when I did it, in terms of where the game was."

Reyna was already a soccer prodigy when he arrived in Charlottesville. In 1990, Gatorade had named the New Jersey high school senior its national Player of the Year, but even that feat could not have been predictive of the success he had at Scott and Klockner Stadiums. In 1991, first-year Reyna–- along with future U.S. National teammate Jeff Agoos–- led the Cavaliers to the program's first national championship. By the time Reyna graduated, he had won two more NCAA titles, earned Soccer America Player of the Year awards, and had represented the United States at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

As a professional, he won unprecedented international acclaim for an American-born player. In 1998, he became the first American become captain, donning the armband for German club Wolfsburg and earning the nickname "Captain America." The moniker would become even more literal when his old UVA coach Bruce Arena named him captain of the U.S. National team for the 2002 World Cup, the third of Reyna's career. It was under Reyna's leadership that the American team earned upset wins on soccer's biggest stage against heavy favorites Portugal and South Korea, before losing a tight quarterfinal match to Germany by a score of 1-0. No American team has ever advanced further in the World Cup.

As Reyna's reputation grew so, too, did the price teams were willing to pay for his services. In 2002, after the World Cup and successful three-year tenure with Glasgow's Rangers F.C., Sunderland A.F.C. paid the Rangers $5.7 million to bring Reyna into the prestigious English Premier League, the highest sum a team had ever paid for an American player. Unfortunately, Reyna never quite lived up to the hype. In 2002, he suffered a season-ending knee injury and never achieved the level of play he had in his prime. In his three seasons playing for Rangers F.C. he had scored 10 goals in 64 games played. In his six seasons for Sunderland and then Manchester City, he scored seven goals in 105 games.

Last season, Reyna returned to the States to play his final season of professional soccer for Major League Soccer's Red Bull New York.

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1 comment

Perhaps the best american born soccer player ever- certainly college