Gregg Berhalter Offers Explanation on Gio Reyna's Lack of World Cup Play


One of the biggest World Cup storylines surrounding the USMNT is spilling out past Qatar. 

Gio Reyna essentially disappearing from the lineup throughout the team’s two-week run to the Round of 16 left many fans — who had heard so much about the next American wonderkid — perplexed. Recent comments from head coach Gregg Berhalter seem to shed some light on the situation and fan the flames all at the same time.

Who is Gio Reyna?

Reyna, who turned 20 the week before the U.S. kicked off against Wales, is a forward with the U.S. men’s national team and Borussia Dortmund of the German Bundesliga. 

Born to Danielle Egan and Claudio Reyna, Gio became the first child of two former U.S. national team players to suit up for his country at the World Cup. His dad served as a captain of the USMNT and was named to four World Cup rosters from 1994 to 2006. The younger Reyna was eligible to play for England, Argentina and Portugal, but he opted to follow in his parents’ footsteps. 

Throughout his teenage years, Reyna garnered attention back in the U.S., but his big breakthrough came in 2020 when he made both his Bundesliga and senior national team debuts. At Dortmund, he’s recorded eight goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga, as well as four Champions League assists. Meanwhile, he’s scored three goals for the U.S., including one against Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League final. 

What did Gio Reyna do at the World Cup?

With club and national team experience under his belt, Reyna entered the World Cup with lofty expectations. 

Many expected him to play a crucial role in the U.S. attack and was projected in many starting lineups. Not only did the young forward not start any of the four matches played by the U.S. in Qatar, but he only played about seven minutes through the group stage. With each passing game, pundits and fans started to question the coaching strategy of leaving Reyna off the pitch. 

When questioned about the decision not to start Reyna in Qatar, Berhalter said it was partially strategic for the specific matchup and also cited “tightness” for Reyna, a player with a documented history of injuries. Reyna immediately refuted this claim, saying “I felt good, I felt ready to go. But it was just his decision.”

Adding to the growing speculation of internal strife was a video of a visibly disgruntled Reyna during the team’s return to the hotel following their 1-0 victory against Iran.

In the quarterfinal loss to the Netherlands, Reyna subbed in at half but wasn’t able to generate much.

What did Gregg Berhalter say about Gio Reyna in Qatar?

On Tuesday, while speaking at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York, Berhalter spoke about a player that “was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field” at the World Cup. He went on to say that he and his staff deliberated for hours on how to handle the situation, even seriously considering sending the player home, before deciding to have one more conversation with the player to reestablish expectations. 

Berhalter said one of his stipulation for the player was an apology to the entire team that would have to “go deeper than just ‘Guys, I’m sorry.’” Berhalter continued by saying that in response to the player’s apology, the rest of the team took ownership of the process and demanded change going forward.

“And from that day on there were no issues with this player,” he said. 

Berhalter concluded this portion of his talk by saying that it’s never easy to send a player home and that he knew it would have been a massive controversy throughout the remainder of the tournament, but that he was prepared to do it.

How were Gregg Berhalter’s comments made public? 

While Berhalter participated in the summit on Tuesday, his comments were only made public on Sunday via Charter’s weekly newsletter. According to a spokesperson from U.S. Soccer, the summit was supposed to be “explicitly off the record” and the story now includes an editor’s note from Charter saying the comments were “erroneously greenlit for publication by someone representing the event organizers.”

Did Gio Reyna respond to the most recent comments from Berhalter?

The first comment from Reyna’s camp came from his agent, Dan Segal, hours after the initial publication of Charter’s newsletter.

Segal’s statement read:

“Gio obviously did not have the experience anyone hoped for at the World Cup. The situation, relationships and interactions among parties are far more complicated than what has been reported. It is disappointing and disrespectful for certain parties to be commenting on private team matters publicly, especially when some do so without full knowledge of the facts and others do so in a self-serving manner.

“At this point, our view is that nothing more is gained by those associated with the national team turning on each other, and we plan no further comment on this matter.”

On Monday afternoon, Reyna weighed in on the situation himself, posting to Instagram in response to statements that “reflect on [his] professionalism and character.”

The statement went on to read:

“Just before the World Cup, Coach Berhalter told me that my role at the tournament would be very limited. I was devastated. I am someone who plays with pride and passion. Soccer is my life, and I believe in my abilities. I fully expected and desperately wanted to contribute to the play of a talented group as we tried to make a statement at the World Cup.

“I am also a very emotional person and I fully acknowledge that I let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior for a few days after learning about my limited role. I apologized to my teammates and coach for this, and was told I was forgiven. Thereafter, I shook off my disappointment and gave everything I had on and off the field. 

“I am disappointed that there is continuing coverage of this matter (as well as some highly fictionalized versions of events) and extremely surprised that anyone on the U.S. men’s team staff would contribute to it. Coach Berhalter has always said that issues that arise with the team will stay “in house” so that we can focus on team unity and progress. I love my team, I love representing my country, and I am focusing now only on improving and growing as a soccer player and a person. I hope that going forward each person involved in U.S. Soccer focuses only on what is in the best interest of the men’s national team so we can enjoy great success at the World Cup in 2026.

What other rumors have emerged about the USMNT and Gio Reyna?

While speculation of a rift between Reyna and Berhalter was already stirring, these comments seemed to confirm the tension and have given rise to a whole slew of reports and rumors. 

According to The Athletic, Reyna threw his shin guards after not playing against Wales. He also reportedly continued to demonstrate a “lack of effort” throughout training, prompting veterans DeAndre Yedlin and Aaron Long to pull him aside and encourage him to improve his work ethic in practice. 

Other less substantiated claims include everything from Reyna and captain Tyler Adams having to be separated to Berhalter putting the decision of whether or not to send Reyna home in the hands of the team, who voted 13-12 to allow him to stay. 

What does this mean for Berhalter, Reyna and the USMNT going forward? 

Reyna’s back in Germany, scoring goals for Dortmund, but the fallout from these comments have many wondering where he stands among the national team. Reyna will be 23 when the U.S. co-hosts the World Cup in 2026 and is considered to be a key piece of their young core going forward. 

It was reported last week that Berhalter was in the early stages of negotiations for a contract renewal as his is set to expire at the end of the year. The U.S. is scheduled for friendlies against Serbia and Colombia at the end of January, but whether or not these two continue to share a locker room remains to be seen.

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