For Andre Reynolds II, it all happened quickly.
Earlier this season, he had a meeting with Chicago Fire head coach Raphael Wicky, who had a proposal: leave Chicago—the only place he’d ever known as home— to go on loan with Memphis 901 FC in the USL Championship for the rest of the season.
“It came with a bit of a shock,” Reynolds told Hot Time in Old Town. “I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life so hearing that, I was gonna go to Memphis is a bit out of the blue.”
Reynolds, who is still only 20, talked it over with his family, and he decided to jump on the opportunity. Memphis coach Ben Pirmann had been watching him since preseason. His team was in need of an outside back, meaning Reynolds would be able to jump in and get regular minutes for the first time in his professional career.
Reynolds, who came up through the Fire Academy, was plagued by hamstring injuries early in his career. After making his debut for the Fire in a Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul under Veljko Paunovic in July 2019, he made Wicky’s 18-man roster several times last season, but only played twice for 15 minutes total—not ideal for a promising player looking to develop.
Since joining Memphis, he’s already made seven appearances—six of those starts—and he’s racked up nearly 500 minutes on the pitch. He’s gone the full 90 minutes three times, and Reynolds said he felt his best individual performance came in a 0-0 draw on the road against OKC Energy.
“I believe it was the third game that I played in,” Reynolds said. “I felt like I was able to get forward a lot, I got a couple good crosses. And I was able to take guys one on one, And then even defensively, I felt very strong. And then our best performance as a team, I felt like when we went to Indy (a 2-1 win over Indy Eleven). We gave up a lot of possession at times. We played with a lot of heart, and we really played as a unit, as just a collective team.”
This Memphis stint is the first time in Reynolds’ life where he’s lived away from Chicago. He’s already sampled some of Memphis’ famous barbecue, “The food is unbelievable. But, it’s not really what you want to be eating if you’re trying to stay fit for games!” he joked. But, there’s one thing about Chicago he misses most.
“It’s got to be my mother’s cooking,” he said. “I’m here, kind of stranded on my own, trying to make meals work. Obviously you can do the pasta, you can do the chicken, all that, but it’s different when your mother’s throwing it down in the kitchen.”
Luckily, Reynolds doesn’t feel alone in his new city. His mom recently came to visit, so he got some of that home cooking. Fire staff checks in often, too, making sure he’s feeling good and keeping up with his workouts. Reynolds’ said he’s hearing from Fire fans who have been watching his games. And, his new teammates have been supportive from day one.
“The locker room is amazing,” Reynolds said. ”I was able to adjust really quickly, get to know the guys very quickly. So it’s a lot better than I had expected. Usually, just as a person, it takes me a little bit to warm up to some guys, but it happened pretty much instantly once I came down here, first couple days I’m already thrown into the banter in the locker room.”
Now, with that support network behind him, Reynolds is focused on becoming the best player he can during his year away from home in the Bluff City.
“I think my goal is to really figure out what I’m going to be as a player,” he said. “Just just doing the things I need to work on. If I mess up, just go at it again. Try again. Try again. Try again, and really just just improve on the things I need to work on, find my identity as a player. And of course, as a team we want to make a long playoff stretch. Hopefully we get some some silverware at the end.”