On this date – January 15, 1994 – “Captain America” Claudio Reyna, then 21 years old, earned his first cap with the Men’s National Team in a dramatic 2-1 friendly win over Norway at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.
Fresh off leading the University of Virginia to three consecutive NCAA Championships, and winning both the 1992 and 1993 Missouri Athletic Club Trophies as the nation’s best collegiate player, Reyna was called in by U.S. MNT coach Bora Milutinovic for the January friendlies against Norway, Switzerland and Russia as the Serbian-born coach continued identifying players to make up the U.S. roster for that summer’s 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Before a crowd of over 15,000 fans, Norway took a 1-0 lead on a goal right before the half, but MNT defender Marcelo Balboa answered with a goal off a header in the 54th minute. A short time later, Reyna began his international career, replacing midfielder Dominic Kinnear in the 61st minute. With the scored tied and time running out, Reyna forced Norwegian goalkeeper Frode Grodas into a save, the ball bouncing out to the six-yard box where U.S. teammate Cobi Jones was there to knock it in for the last-minute game-winner.
Reyna was a rising star by the time he made his international debut. He had previously played every group match for U.S. at the 1989 FIFA Under-17 World Championship, led the U.S. to the 1991 Pan American gold-medal, and was on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.
Following his January 1994 senior team debut, Reyna made the 1994 FIFA World Cup squad but suffered a hamstring injury right before the start of the tournament and did not appear in any of the four U.S. matches. He did, however, earn 19 caps that year – establishing the record for most appearances by a U.S. player in his debut year with the National Team – which was matched by Gyasi Zardes in 2015.
From then on, Reyna’s career took off.
The New Jersey-native would go on to make 112 national team appearances, scoring eight career goals and adding appearances at the 1996 Olympics and the 1998, 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups to his illustrious international resume. On the club side, he played for German Bundesliga sides Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg, Scottish Premier League club Glasgow Rangers and with English Premier League sides Sunderland and Manchester City before closing out his career with Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls (2005-2006).
He was inducted in to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012, and then voted to the All-Time U.S. Men’s Best XI in 2013.
In 2010, he was named U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, a position he held until 2013 when he became the first employee – Director of Football Operations – for future MLS expansion side New York City FC.
January 15, 1994 USMNT Lineup:
Tony Meola, Desmond Armstrong (Marcelo Balboa 37'), Alexi Lalas, Mike Lapper, Jeff Agoos (Mike Burns 72'), Cobi Jones, Thomas Dooley, Mike Sorber (Fernando Clavijo 81'), Chris Henderson (Dario Brose 46'), Joe-Max Moore, Dominic Kinnear (Claudio Reyna 61').