Reynolds discusses his strong season at Westerlo, his USMNT call-up, & his future
March 21, 2023
AMONG THE MANY players on the current United States national team roster looking to make inroads into the is right back Bryan Reynolds who is in the middle of a breakthrough season at Westerlo in Belgium. At the start of the season, he joined the newly promoted team on a season-long loan from Roma and has been a big part of the team’s surprising success.
Last season, Reynolds joined Kortrijk in Belgium for the second half of the Belgian season as playing time with Roma was sparse. At Kortrijk, he played well on occasion but it was a tough environment to stand out as the club struggled immensely in the final months of the season.
Instead of returning to Italy, Reynolds remained in Belgium but this time to a Westerlo team that had just earned promotion to the top flight. The team has been among the most surprising success stories in the First Division and enter this March window in sixth place. Instead of being a passenger, Reynolds has been a big part of it having made 22 starts and been a key player on both sides of the ball.
The last time Reynolds was with the U.S. team was two years ago shortly after he made the transfer from FC Dallas to Roma.
“The last two years have just been like - was he just a one hit wonder? Is he really a good player?” Reynolds told American Soccer Now. “You just kind of have to block out the outside noise and just believe in yourself. I know that I'm a good player and I have all this potential… That's the biggest thing and having a strong mentality and always believing in yourself and knowing it will all work out in the end.”
Reynolds now enters camp with a wave of momentum. Westerlo has won four of its last five games and in the past two weeks, Reynolds has particularly stood out. On March 11, he was one of the best players on the field in a 3-1 win over Kortrijk. Then on Sunday, he picked up a big assist in another impressive effort in a 2-1 away win over Oostende.
BRYAN REYNOLDS ASSIST ???????????????????? Roma loanee whips in a bendy cross to get the assist in Westerlo's 2-1 win at Oostende on Saturday. 21-year-old from Fort Worth, TX now has 1 goal and 2 assists on the season in Jupiler Pro League.pic.twitter.com/ALrcJlzAiy— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) March 19, 2023
But for Reynolds, the big part of his growth has been on the defensive side of the game – winning duels, tackles, not letting attackers get past him, forcing turnovers. Westerlo manager Jonas De Roeck has especially made a big effort helping Reynolds develop this area of his game.
“It’s the repetitions of being in all these situations, week in and week out,” Reynolds said of his development at Westerlo. “When you know you're going to play on the weekend and you're playing 20 games in a row now, it's just time on the pitch. The coach here really believes in me, and he gives me the confidence like - like go for it, but I want you to be the best defender today. That's what I focused on and, when you think about it, it's all about positioning. I feel like I'm fast enough and I have the physical ability to make up for like certain positions mistakes, but it's all positioning and just being more aggressive.”
U.S. interim manager Anthony Hudson and his staff have heavily scouted Reynolds in recent weeks, including trips to Belgium to attend his games. In addition to watching on film, Hudson is particularly impressed with the confidence of Reynolds noting his impact in games and how effectively he is getting forward into the attack.
“It's not easy for these younger players to go overseas in different parts of Europe, different parts of the world and integrate first into the culture and into a new team and then to perform,” Hudson said. “Some get left out, they have to move to another club, they go on loan… One thing we've been really impressed with Bryan is we're seeing someone who is growing in confidence… His team is doing well and he's a significant part of the reason why they're doing well.”
“What we're seeing from him, which we really like is him going forward, he's a threat,” Hudson continued. “Every game we watch, you're looking at it thinking opposing teams now have to really scout this guy and figure out how to defend against him... He's attack-minded. He is powerful when he runs forward. We see a lot. He gets the ball, he plays the ball forward and then he runs forward and he can go inside, outside, and he likes getting in the box. He has good physicality and he has good quality. He's been doing really well.”
What is clear now is that his development over the current season has set Reynolds up for even bigger opportunities in the year ahead – on multiple levels.
At the club level, this summer will be telling.. His loan will expire at the end of the season and Reynolds wants to be in a place where he will play – whether remaining at Westerlo, returning to Roma, or moving to a new club. Roma could be an option but there is also an increasingly high chance he either goes on loan again (with an option to buy) or is sold again.
“You always want to play for the team that invested all this money in you,” Reynolds said of his future. “If I stay here, I'd just be developing more and more. If I go back to Roma, of course, I just want to focus on continuing to play because once I start playing, like that's when I show my real qualities. Once I have that confidence, I don't want to get back into a situation where I'm just getting rotated in or I'm not playing.
“I know I have the quality to play there but some things you can't control,” Reynolds said. “You have to get games to get better and to fit into that league. And to play once every five games for 20 minutes. I don't think that really going to do me any good. I think the main thing is just me finding a situation where I continue to play and develop.”
For now, Reynolds is happy. His club is overachieving and Reynolds says Westerlo has one of the best lock rooms he’s ever been part of with all the players playing for each other. A climb inside the top four is within reach and Reynolds continues to make big strides in his game. The club would love to have Reynolds for another season although it remains to be seen if they can make it happen with their resources.
Then with the national team, Reynold is happy to be back with the group but sees this as a huge opportunity. The right back position remains competitive with Sergino Dest and Joe Scally also in the current camp and both also younger players. DeAndre Yedlin likely also remains in the picture and Reggie Cannon will hope to remerge as well.
But Reynolds is also a strong candidate for the Olympic team – saying about the tournament: “If the opportunity comes, I am more than willing to take it.”
Against Grenada and El Salvador, Reynolds wants to show the staff and his teammates that he has moved beyond the raw prospect he was during his last cap two years ago. He wants to show that he is now more mature, more well-rounded, and more polished. He wants this to be the start of laying the framework to be part of the team’s future.
“I'm not going there expecting that I need to start or I need to play both these games,” Reynold said. “But it's more just getting back into the group and feeling like I want to be a part of this team and I want to be with this team in the future and just. I want to go there and show what I improved on since last time I've been there and show that I'm a more experienced player”