By TOM CANAVAN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 6:39 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a dozen years in Europe, Claudio Reyna is returning home to play with the New York Red Bulls.
The former American captain signed a multiyear contract with the Major League Soccer team on Wednesday, reuniting with Bruce Arena, his former coach at the University of Virginia and the U.S. national team.
"I'm just really happy to be back," the 33-year-old midfielder said. "This is home for me and that's my main reason to play. I think I would have regretted not playing in the MLS. I wanted to do it at the right time for a lot of different reasons."
Reyna has never played in MLS, going to Europe right after the 1994 World Cup.
"Claudio can still play anywhere another two or three years," said Arena, who is looking to rebuild a franchise that has never made it to the MLS championship game.
Reyna was signed as a designated player, meaning the Red Bulls could sign him and exceed the $2 million-per-team salary cap.
New York also has a second designated player slot available acquired in a November trade that sent midfielder Amado Guevara to Chivas USA. Arena said there is a good chance the team would sign a goal-scorer in the next few weeks.
"One thing missing at the press conference was a table that had a trophy on it," Arena said. "We're hopefully building a team that can compete for a trophy."
Arena thinks Reyna can be the centerpiece.
"He will be as reliable a center midfielder as you can have in this league, that's a real plus, and something I think we can build our team around," Arena said. "He is a player that gives players on the field a lot of confidence. He will be able to communicate and help develop the young players."
A New Jersey native, Reyna also might be able to relate to many young MLS players being an American. It's something that Arena and Reyna discussed in a telephone conversation about a month ago when Reyna was finalizing plans to leave Manchester City.
The English Premier League team terminated Reyna's contract on Tuesday, clearing the way for him to sign with New York.
Getting Reyna back home is another plus for the MLS, which saw the Los Angeles Galaxy sign David Beckham this month for a deal thought to be worth about $50 million over five years.
"Beckham will certainly score more goals, I think, with his ability on free kicks and those types of thing," said Arena, who was hired by the Red Bulls in July, less than a week after the U.S. Soccer Federation opted not to renew his contract. "But by anyone's thought process, the addition of Beckham and Reyna will give this league an incredible infusion of talent."
Known in Europe as "Captain America," Reyna retired from international soccer after last year's World Cup. He scored eight goals in 112 appearances and was on the U.S. roster for the 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups, as well as the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
Reyna spent 12 seasons in Europe, also playing with Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg in Germany, Glasgow Rangers in Scotland and Sunderland. He joined Manchester City in 2003 and scored four goals in 77 games.
Reyna played in 15 games for Manchester City this season. His last match was Dec. 17 against Tottenham.
Often injured, Reyna said he felt good. He blamed part of his problems on misdiagnosed injuries, noting that trainers failed to see either a broken ankle or a badly torn muscle.
He believes the Red Bulls can be in the mix of four-to-six teams that can challenge for a championship. He intends to bring the right attitude to the MLS.
"In Europe that's all I learned on a daily basis, you have to fight to play," he said. "You are not handed anything."