USA midfielder Gio Reyna has responded to reports that he was almost sent home from Qatar for a perceived lack of effort during the team’s preparations for their World Cup opener against Wales.
The Athletic reported that Reyna was “walking around” while the rest of the team trained intensely in one session a few days before the Wales match, USA’s first game at a World Cup since 2014. It was not clear whether the 20-year-old’s performance was due to injury or disappointment that he was unlikely to start against Wales. The Athletic said senior US players spoke to Reyna about the situation several times before he eventually apologized to his teammates, and the matter was considered to be settled.
Reyna himself appeared to corroborate some aspects of the story in an Instagram post on Monday, while calling parts of the coverage “highly fictionalized versions of events”.
“Just before the World Cup [USA coach Gregg] Berhalter told me that my role at the tournament would be very limited,” he wrote. “I was devastated. I am someone who plays with pride and passion. Soccer is my life, and I believe in my abilities … 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 I was told I was forgiven. Thereafter, I shook off my disappointment and gave everything I had on and off the field.”
Berhalter was criticized by some fans for not starting the Wales match with Reyna, who has impressed during his time with Borussia Dortmund. At the time, Berhalter said Reyna was suffering from “a little bit of tightness”.
Reyna, however, told the media after the Wales match that: “I feel really good. I feel great. I feel fine. [Berhalter] doesn’t have to tell me why he didn’t put me in or why he does.”
ESPN reports that teammates and coaches spoke to Reyna after those comments and he issued his apology shortly afterwards.
Last week, Berhalter appeared to be talking about Reyna in a speech to the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York.
“[We] had a player [in Qatar] that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field. One of 26 players, so it stood out. As a staff, we sat together for hours deliberating what we were going to do with this player. We were ready to book a plane ticket home, that’s how extreme it was,” Berhalter said. He added that the player subsequently apologized and “really took ownership of that process. And from that day on there were no issues with this player.”
Berhalter told ESPN that last week’s speech was supposed to be off the record and he did not wish to identify the player in question.
“It’s not really important who it was,” Berhalter told ESPN on Sunday. “The important thing is that the group had very clear standards and they were prepared to communicate if the standards weren’t being met. Sometimes that communication leads to positive change and a clear pathway forward.”
Reyna’s agent, Dan Segal, issued a statement to The Athletic on Sunday.
“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,” he said in the statement.
Reyna appeared to reference Berhalter’s speech in Monday’s Instagram post.
“I am disappointed that there is continuing coverage of this matter … and extremely surprised that anyone on the US men’s team staff would contribute to it,” he wrote. “Coach Berhalter has always said that issues that arise with the team will stay ‘in house’ so we can focus on team unity and progress … I hope that going forward each person involved in US Soccer focuses 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.”
Reyna came on a substitute for seven minutes in the draw with England and for the second-half in USA’s last-16 defeat to the Netherlands. He played no part in their final group match, against Iran.