A lingering question as the US prepares for Iran: What’s going on with Gio Reyna?

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — It’s the story surrounding the US men’s national team that Gregg Berhalter wishes was forgotten.

The curious case of Giovanni Reyna.

The 20-year-old winger was on everyone’s lips before the start of the World Cup, and not on his own. Reyna – the son of two-time US World Cup captain Claudio Reyna and former US women’s international Danielle Egan – is the closest thing to US soccer king – is one of the brightest young stars on a team full of bright stars. He thought he would play a big role for the Americans in Qatar but has mostly been off the field so far.

Reyna, who has 15 caps, four goals and one assist since his first call-up in 2020, did not feature in the Americans’ first game against Wales and came on as an 83rd-minute substitute against England.

As the U.S. faces elimination from the World Cup in their third and final group stage game against Iran at Al Thuma Stadium on Tuesday (2:00 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), one question remains: what’s got with Reyna on her?

USMNT’s Gio Reyna on his personal journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

USMNT's Gio Reyna on his personal journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

The Americans need to win on Tuesday to advance to the knockout rounds of the tournament. Iran, on the other hand, need only a draw to progress to the last 16 thanks to a 2-0 win over Wales on Friday.

[For the USMNT, the knockout round has arrived early]

Berhalter’s starting XI has largely been the same for two games apart from the striker. Josh Sargent started against Wales and Haji Wright got the nod against England. There is a belief that Jesus Ferreira, the third real striker in this squad, could start against Iran.

Berhalter was asked on Monday how he felt about his centre-forwards’ play so far and whether he would consider playing Reyna in that role to bring a different face to Iran. Berhalter countered that Sargent had good chances at the near post against Wales and Wright was effective against England. He conceded that his team could have done better in the penalty area, but “it’s up to the rest of the group to give them a quality service so they can finish some chances.”

As for Reyna, Berhalter said: “I think in terms of alternatives in the forward position, we’re happy with the three we have. We didn’t necessarily think about using Gio or Christian [Pulisic] there or Timmy Weah there or Jordan Morris there. We focused more on the three we have in camp.”

[Forget tactics and lineups: For USMNT, it’s about having right mentality]

The 6-foot-1 Reyna is a dangerous attacking player when healthy. A clever and technical striker with brilliant ball skills, he was the youngest American to appear in the UEFA Champions League in 2020 (17 then), breaking the record previously set by Pulisic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest talents US soccer has ever had.

Last year, Reyna suffered injuries that limited his availability for the national team in qualifying and also for his Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund. He featured in his club’s last three games before the World Cup break and was basically considered a healthy and fit member of Berhalter’s 26-man squad.

Reyna told reporters that despite not playing, he felt “100% healthy” after the Wales game. Berhalter opted for substitutes Brenden Aaronson, Wright, DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta while USA led 1-0, and then Morris came on in the 88th minute. Berhalter said the same evening that Reyna might have been “a bit tense” after playing against Qatari club side Al-Gharafa SC earlier in the week, noting that they “build him up and think he has a big role to play can”. the tournament. The question is when.” Reyna then played about 20 minutes in the second game against England.

Asking Berhalter about Reyna’s status is now a thing. And the trainer is irritated by the question. But former US captain Landon Donovan also wants to know what’s going on.

“He comes into this tournament, we’ve all put him on the starting lineup and all of a sudden he doesn’t take the field against Wales and we’re like, ‘What’s going on here?'” Donovan said on FOX ahead of the England game. “I’m not sure what the reality is. He says one thing, Gregg says another. I don’t know, but we need that guy on the field if we’re going to be successful.”

Perhaps all questions will be answered on Tuesday evening at what is probably the biggest game in US soccer history. Or maybe the mystery could go on.

Iran vs. USA Preview: Can USMNT Make It From Group Stage?

Iran vs. USA Preview: Can USMNT Make It From Group Stage?

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of Strong Like a Woman, which was released in Spring 2022 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @SheetLitman.

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