Multiple sources close to the US men’s national team have shared details the athlete This also explains the lack of commitment from attacker Gio Reyna at the World Cup.
The sources, who asked not to be known because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Reyna had shown an alarming lack of effort in training ahead of the USA’s opening game against Wales on November 21, including in a clash against Wales Qatari club Al Gharafa SC on November 17. Reyna’s lack of intensity in scrimmage – sources described as running around his entire time on the field during an otherwise intense session – caused significant frustration within the team. The lack of effort was so pronounced that it was unclear whether Reyna was protecting himself from injury or just frustrated that he wasn’t in the starting XI against Wales.
The drama surrounding Reyna came to a head during the game against Wales when Reyna threw his shinguards after he failed to come on as a substitute and then in a training session to Wales where Reyna’s lack of effort continued again. It prompted several veteran players to speak to Reyna, including DeAndre Yedlin and Aaron Long, who pulled him aside and urged him to try harder to move forward.
The sources said the situation was becoming untenable and that it had to be addressed several times, including with the coaching staff, until finally Reyna stood up before a video session and apologized to his teammates for his initial lack of intensity, saying he understood he was part of one collective group. After the apology, several players on the team came forward to hold Reyna accountable for his actions. Sources said the players believed the group and their culture would be able to overcome the problems following Reyna’s apology and that the 20-year-old turned a corner on his efforts in training. Within the team, the issues with Reyna ended there, the sources said.
US coach Gregg Berhalter appeared to refer to Reyna’s situation without naming the player at last Tuesday’s HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York, comments published in a Charterworks newsletter this week. (UPDATE: A US soccer spokesman said the summit, which Berhalter attended, was “explicitly confidential.”)
“At this last World Cup we had a player who clearly underperformed on and off the pitch,” said Berhalter. “One of 26 players, so he stood out. As employees, we sat together for hours thinking about what we would do with this player. We were ready to book a plane ticket home, it was that extreme. And it came down to that we’re going to have another conversation with him, and part of the conversation was how we’re going to move from here. There will be no more violations.
“But the other thing we said to him was you have to apologize to the group but they have to say why you’re apologizing. It has to go deeper than just ‘guys, I’m sorry.’ And I prepared the leadership group with it. I said, ‘Okay, this guy is going to apologize to you as a group, to the whole team.’ And the fantastic thing about this whole thing was that after he apologized, one by one they stood up and said, ‘Listen, it wasn’t good enough. They didn’t live up to our expectations for a teammate and we want to see a change. They really took over this process. And from that day on there were no problems with this player.
“The best way to deal with things as a coach is to focus on your values. Because it’s difficult to send a player home. It was going to be a massive controversy. You would have read about it for five days. But we were willing to do it because he wasn’t up to the group’s standards, and the group was willing to do it too.”
Attempts to reach Reyna’s agent Dan Segal about an hour before the release and after Charter’s release of Berhalter’s comments were not immediately successful. Segal provided later the athlete with the following statement.
“Gio obviously didn’t have the experience that was hoped for at the World Cup. The situation, relationships and interactions between the parties are far more complicated than previously reported. It is disappointing and disrespectful for certain parties to speak publicly about private team matters, especially when some do so without full knowledge of the facts and others do so in a self-interested manner.
“At this stage, we believe there is no longer any point in turning those associated with the national team against each other and we do not plan to comment further on the matter.”
Some of the issues with Reyna leaked out to the public during the tournament after Reyna failed to play against Wales.
Berhalter made his first four substitutions while the USA were 1-0 up, then opted to bring on winger Jordan Morris for Tim Weah after Wales equalized in the 82nd minute. Explaining his decision to go for Morris over Reyna after the match, Berhalter said: “At the stage of the game that we were in, we went to Jordan who we felt could give us something with speed and power He noted that the team checked Reyna “at the last minute”, found him “OK” and said he envisioned him playing a role in USA’s second game of the group stage against England .
When asked what the last-minute check was for, Berhalter said “you could see it was a bit strained” during the scrum with Al Gharafa a few days earlier, that the team “set it up” and that “We believe he can play a big role in this tournament – the question is when and hopefully on Friday (vs England) he will be another step ahead.”
A few minutes later, Reyna told reporters in the mixed zone that he was perfectly healthy.
“I felt good, I felt ready to go,” Reyna said. “But it was only his decision.”
On the day of the game against England, former United States forward Eric Wynalda addressed Reyna’s lack of playing time during a Twitter space with LA Times columnist Dylan Hernandez. Wynalda claimed there was “internal argument” within the team over Berhalter’s decision not to play Reyna. He also claimed Berhalter lied to the media when he told reporters after the Wales game that he ruled out Reyna from that game due to an injury. Wynalda claimed he spoke to Gio’s father Claudio, the former US captain and Berhalter’s childhood friend and teammate at several World Cups.
“Since Gio Reyna isn’t in the lineup right now, which has been a massive controversy within the team – even his own teammates want him on the field and it seems (causing) internal strife with the (team) and manager Gregg Berhalter,” Wynalda said . “I don’t know how much to say about that, but I’ve been trying to comfort Gio’s father, Claudio, for the last few hours, well the last few days, with everything that’s going on. He was playable, Berhalter lied to the media saying it was an injury, asked the player to join this story which has created a rift between the two and now he’s on the bench, which is really the case unhappy. The situation should have been handled very differently.”
Wynalda backed away from his initial comments in a tweet posted to his account the day after he first commented.
Berhalter was not asked about Wynalda’s claims in his press conferences before or after the game against England, although he clarified in a reply that it was a “manager’s decision” not to play Reyna against Wales. Reyna played seven minutes against England. Berhalter was then asked ahead of the Iran game if there was a rift between him and Gio Reyna and if, as Wynalda claimed, he lied to the media and instructed Reyna to tell reporters he was injured after the Wales game be.
“Speaking of four years of travel, right, there have also been four years of interaction with you (the press contingent). And what I would say is, you know, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I asked Gio to lie about it,” Berhalter said. “I’m just not. I don’t agree. So, you know, if you have to take Eric’s word, or my word, or whatever, feel free, but I know what happened, that’s not what I’m representing. 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 went even further back on his original statement on his SiriusXM show.
— SiriusXM FC 157 ⚽️📻 (@SiriusXMFC) November 28, 2022
Reyna did not play against Iran on November 29 as the USA spent the second half defending a narrow 1-0 lead.
“I think a lot depends on the timing and the circumstances,” said Berhalter before taking on the Netherlands in the round of 16. “If you look at how the games played out, we had the lead and we had to hold the lead later in games. The only game we didn’t have this scenario, we actually used it to help get the win. So this is how we can use it most effectively. A really talented player and we’re looking for the right moment. But he can undoubtedly help his team.”
Berhalter used Reyna more prominently in USA’s December 3 loss to the Netherlands. After trailing 2-0 at half-time, he brought the Borussia Dortmund attacker into play for the second half and then switched him to the wing when he brought on centre-forward Haji Wright. Reyna struggled to make his mark in the competition, ending his first World Cup after 52 total minutes as the USA were eliminated by just three goals in four games.
Reyna scored for Dortmund in a test match shortened to 60 minutes against Rapid Bucharest, fourth in the Romanian SuperLiga, on Saturday at the “Christmas Cup” in Bucharest.
(Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images; Design: Eamonn Dalton)