The rise of Andrés Reyes in football has been defined by his acceptance to change, regardless of the adversity that appears along the way.
When he was 15 years old the Colombian center back, one of the ten (as of press time, at least) new faces for the Red Bulls going into 2021, started a 40-minute commute from his home in Puerto Tejada. Every day he traveled to the training grounds of CD Aston Villa, a youth side (named after the decorated Birmingham club) that recruited him after a game against his old academy Internacional de Palmira.
“They wanted me on loan for Torneo de las Americas” Reyes told Once A Metro over the phone, in reference to an international youth tournament that is played in the city of Cali in western Colombia. “I spent my formative years with CD Aston Villa. It was with them that I learned everything. I grew up as a soccer player and they helped me to mature as a person as well.”
The same Torneo de las Americas would be the setting for Reyes next move when he was 17 years old. A scout from Atlético Nacional, one of the country’s biggest clubs with sixteen Colombian league titles and two Copa Libertadores crowns, followed him during the tournament and invited him to join the club from Medellín in 2017.
”That was my first time away from family,” said Reyes. “After two months I wanted to go back home, but I managed to adapt once I realized that it was the opportunity I wanted.”
Reyes made his professional debut in October 2018. That same year he was a member of the Colombian youth team that won the gold medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games. His 2019 was even bigger as the Puerto Tejada native led Colombia’s defense in the U-20 World Cup, scoring one goal. Upon return, Reyes played under former New York manager Juan Carlos Osorio, who had been hired for a second stint at Nacional.
”Working with Osorio was great,” said Reyes. “He knows so much about the game. He taught me about starting plays from the back, positioning on the field, the passing options a center back has within games.”
Reyes ended up playing a total of 16 games in the second semester of 2019. His consolidation as a starter in Atlético Nacional and his performances for the Colombian side at the U-20 World Cup that year set him up for the international market with Inter Miami CF bringing him to MLS on a one-year loan with option to buy for their expansion season.
“I came to MLS with some professional experience, but of course the first time in another country is different,” said Reyes. “It was hard, I was alone and then the pandemic hit, which made it worse, but everything that happens when you start [your career] helps you in the future so I adapted. I learned a lot while in Miami.”
Despite his loan expiring at the end of 2020, Inter Miami noted in their press statement announcing his release that the club was negotiating to bring him back. Eventual changes in management prevented Miami from exercising the buy option for Reyes, which was reportedly valued between $1.5 million and $2 million. However, the defender performances in his first MLS season and his ceiling put Reyes on the radar of New York sporting chief Kevin Thelwell.
“I liked MLS and wanted to stay,” said Reyes. “Red Bulls is a club of more pedigree so I didn’t think it twice as I feel I can achieve my goals with this club.”
Now settled in New York, Reyes is living a process of adaptation in the tactical side, something he hasn’t quite experienced before.
“The Red Bull system is difficult for me because wherever I have played before it has been about keeping the ball, about ball possession,” said Reyes. “It was like that in Nacional and we tried something similar in Miami with Diego Alonso. In Red Bulls is very different, it’s a constant press, always forward, it’s good because it helps us to impose ourselves against rivals.”
An admirer of Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos, the Colombian feels he is making progress in grasping the identity the manager Gerhard Struber is trying to establish in New York for the upcoming season.
“We have to do a ‘press defense’ when we attack,” said Reyes. “The idea is to have defensive order when we are attacking, be aggressive and impose ourselves with the press.”
As for life in the Tri State Area, Reyes didn’t get any recommendations from Osorio, but got a surprise call from former Red Bulls center back and fellow Colombian Jámison Olave.
“I didn’t know that much about Jámison Olave before but had the opportunity to talk to him,” said Reyes. “He sent me a video and recommended me places, told me about Queens. I am just here like other Colombians and I hope to have good performances to keep representing my country well at this club.”