Multiple sources close to the US men’s national team have provided the information The Athletic which help explain striker Gio Reyna’s absence from the World Cup.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Reyna showed an alarming lack of effort in training ahead of the USA’s tournament opener against Wales on the 21st. November, including in the struggle against Wales. Qatari club Al Gharafa SC on November 17. Reyna’s lack of intensity in the scrimmage — sources described him as walking around the entire court during an otherwise intense session — caused significant frustration among the team. The lack of effort was so evident that it was unclear if Reyna was protecting himself from injury or if he was just frustrated that he wasn’t supposed to start as a starter for Wales.
The drama surrounding Reyna erupted during the Wales game when Reyna threw his shin guard after not being dunked and then into the post-Wales training where Reyna’s lack of effort continued again. That prompted several veteran players to speak to Reyna, including DeAndre Yedlin and Aaron Long, who pulled him aside and urged him to put in more effort going forward.
According to sources, the situation became unbearable and that it had to be addressed several times, including with the coaching staff, until Reyna finally stood up before the video session and apologized to her teammates for her initial intensity and said she understood. he was part of a collective group. After the apology, several players on the team spoke out to hold Reyna accountable for his actions. Sources said the players believed the group and its culture could overcome the problems following Reyna’s apology and that the 20-year-old had turned a corner regarding his training. Within the team, the problems with Reyna ended there, the sources said.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter appeared to refer to Reyna’s situation without mentioning the player at the HOW Institute for Society’s Moral Leadership Summit in New York last Tuesday, comments published in the Charterworks newsletter this week.
“In this last World Cup, we had a player who clearly did not live up to expectations on and off the field,” Berhalter said. “One of 26 players, so it stood out. As a staff, we sat together for hours thinking about what we were going to do with this player. We were ready to book a plane ticket home, that’s how extreme it was. And it ended up having one more conversation with him, and some the discussion was how we are going to behave from here.There will be no more violations.
“But the other thing we told him was you have to apologize to the group, but it has to say why you’re apologizing. It has to go deeper than just, ‘Guys, I’m sorry.’ And I prepared the management team with that. I said, ‘OK , this guy is going to apologize to you as a group, to the whole team.” And what was fantastic about this whole thing is that after his apology, they stood up one by one and said, ‘Look, it hasn’t been good enough. You haven’t lived up to our expectations of our teammate and we want to see a change. They really took ownership of this process. And from that day on, there was no problem with this player.
“As a coach, the most appropriate way to handle things is to return to your values. Because it’s hard to send a player home. It was becoming a major controversy. You would have read about it for five days straight. But we were willing to do it because he didn’t meet the group’s requirements, and the group was also willing to do it.
Several attempts to reach Reyna’s agent were not immediately successful.
Some of Reyna’s problems leaked out during the tournament after Reyna didn’t play against Wales.
Berhalter used his first four assists as the United States led the match 1-0, then decided to bring on winger Jordan Morris for Tim Weah after Wales had leveled in the 82nd minute. After the match, Berhalter explained his decision to go with Morris over Reyna, saying that “at the point in the game we were at, we went with Jordan, who we thought could give us something with speed and power.” He noted that the team had made a “last minute check” on Reyna, deemed him “OK” and said he envisioned him playing a role against England in the U.S.’s second group stage match.
Asked to clarify the purpose of the last-minute check, Berhalter said he “saw that in the fight with Al Gharafa a few days earlier it was a bit tight”, that the team had “built him up” and that “we believe he can play a big role in this tournament – it’s a question of when, and hopefully on Friday (against England) he’ll be one step ahead.”
A few minutes later, Reyna told reporters in the mixed zone that he was perfectly fine.
“I felt good, I felt ready to go,” Reyna said. “But that was just his decision.”
On the day of the England game, former US international forward Eric Wynalda addressed Reyna’s lack of playing time on Twitter Spaces with LA Times columnist Dylan Hernandez. Wynalda claimed there were “internal disputes” within the team over Berhalter’s decision not to play Reyna. He also claimed that Berhalter lied to the media when he told reporters after the Wales match that he left Reyna out of the match due to injury. Wynalda claimed to have spoken with Gio’s father, Claudio, a former U.S. captain and Berhalter’s childhood friend and teammate at several World Cups.
– Gio Reyna being out of the lineup right now, which has been a huge controversy within the team – even his own teammates want him on the field and that seems to be (causing) internal strife with (the team) and Manager Gregg Berhalter. “, Wynalda said. “I don’t know how much I should comment on it, but I’ve been trying to comfort Gio’s father Claudio for the last couple of hours, well, the last couple of days with everything that’s happened. He was fit to play, Berhalter lied to the media and said it was an injury , ask a player to be involved in a storyline that caused a feud between the two of them and now he’s on the bench, which is really unfortunate. The situation should have been handled very differently.”
Wynalda backtracked a bit on her original comments In a tweet posted to his account the day after his initial comments.
Berhalter was not asked about Wynalda’s claims in his press conferences before or after the England game, although he clarified in his response that it was a “coach’s decision” not to play Reyna against Wales. Reyna played seven minutes against England. Berhalter was then asked before the Iran game if there was a falling out between him and Gio Reyna and if, as Wynalda claimed, he had lied to the media and told Reyna to tell reporters he was injured after the Wales game.
“Speaking of a four-year journey, yes, it’s also been four years of interacting with you (the press department). And what I would say, I’ll leave it to you to decide, did I ask Giota to lie about it,” Berhalter said. “That’s just not who I am. That’s not what I represent. So, you know, if you have to take Eric’s word or my word or whatever, feel free, but I know what happened, I don’t represent it. Like everyone else, Gio is a member of this team that we care deeply about and know can help the team. It’s about when he can help us and how he can help us.
Shortly after that response, Wynalda walked back his original statement even further on his SiriusXM show.
In counter attack, @EricWynalda clarified the comments he made #USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter on Twitter Spaces @latimes.
Listen to the whole conversation with @KeithCostigan here – https://t.co/cv63ZlzuVl pic.twitter.com/9J2DQK2mIK
— SiriusXM FC 157 ⚽️📻 (@SiriusXMFC) November 28, 2022
Reyna ended up not playing against Iran on the 29th. Nov. as the U.S. spent the second half protecting a narrow 1-0 lead.
“I think it depends a lot on the timing and the circumstances,” Berhalter said before facing the Netherlands in the round of 16. “If you look at the way the games have gone, we’ve had leads and we’ve had to hold on. leads later in games. The only game where we didn’t have that scenario, we actually put him in to help get the win. So we can just use him in the most effective way. Really a talented player and we are looking for the right moment, but he can undoubtedly help his team.
Berhalter used Reyna significantly more in the USA’s loss to the Netherlands on Dec. 3. At half-time 2-0 up, he brought on the Borussia Dortmund forward for the second half and then moved him to the wing as he fed center forward Haji Wright. . Reyna largely failed to make an impact in the competition, ending his first World Cup after playing a total of 52 minutes as the United States were eliminated with just three goals in four games.
Reyna scored a goal for Dortmund in a shortened 60-minute friendly against Rapid Bucharest, the fourth-place team in the Romanian Superliga, in the Bucharest “Christmas Cup” on Saturday.
(Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images; Design by Eamonn Dalton)