Why USMNT’s Gio Reyna hasn’t been playing at World Cup

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RAJYAN, Qatar — The World Cup was seen as a showcase for Gio Reyna, a 20-year-old forward who is following in the footsteps of his Hall of Fame father, former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna.

In the group stage, however, youngster Reina made one appearance, logging seven minutes at the end of the 0-0 draw with England. His absence puzzled — and angered — some U.S. supporters on social media, prompted questions for coach Greg Berhalter at news conferences and led to accusations (which were later denied) by former U.S. star Eric Wynalda.

First, the background: Reina is an extremely experienced but often injured player for Borussia Dortmund. He injured a hamstring in the first of 14 qualifiers for the September 2021 World Cup, missed months of Bundesliga games and didn’t return to the U.S. team until the final three games.

Setbacks and scares continued to hamper his progress, but as the World Cup approached, Reina was finding success with Dortmund and looked on course for significant playing time in Qatar.

From the archives: Gio Reyna is happy and healthy. This is good news for the USMNT.

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However, in the first match against Wales, Reina not only did not start, he was not among the five substitutes in the second half.

Berhalter said Reyna had suffered a muscle strain in a fight against a local club four days earlier and had therefore decided to proceed cautiously.

Berhalter later said he hadn’t ruled out using Reyna but, citing the “nature of the game” down the stretch, chose forward Jordan Morris over “speed and power.”

Reyna acknowledged the issue, but also said he “definitely feels 100 percent.”

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Looking ahead to the next game, Berhalter said he can “predict [Reyna] play some role against England. The role was small: Reina came on in the 83rd minute in a 0-0 draw that saw the US holders hold their own – and then some – against the trophy contenders.

Then Wynalda got involved. A former teammate of both Berhalter and the older Reyna, Wynalda claimed during a Twitter Spaces chat that Berhalter had lied about the injury and asked the player to go along with the story. He also suggested that Reyna’s lack of playing time was causing friction within the squad.

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Berhalter replied, “I’m just not like that. I don’t represent that. So if you have to take my word for it or Eric’s, feel free, but I know what happened.

A day later, Wanalda apologized and said, “I wish I could take it back.”

Against Iran on Tuesday, Berhalter started Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah on the wings – Reina’s primary position – for the third game in a row. Brendan Aaronson was the natural first-choice substitute when Pulisic picked up an injury while scoring and was unable to continue after the break. Clinging to a 1-0 lead, Berhalter made substitutions, prioritizing defense, which is not Reyna’s strength.

Berhalter stuck with a core group: he introduced one new starter after the first game and made two changes after the second. Only four players made multiple appearances as substitutes. The Americans were steady and consistent throughout, despite only scoring two goals.

The USMNT is hammered but heads into the knockout round of the World Cup

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Pulisic’s condition on Saturday against the Netherlands in the Round of 16 is day-to-day. Aronson will likely remain the first alternate, leaving Reyna to wait again.

In a knockout round, a deficit or a draw likely to change Berhalter’s calculation. The U.S. men are no longer playing for group stage points, and Reyna could become a weapon. Yet to come from behind in this contest, the United States didn’t need an offensive boost in the second half. Reyna could provide that lift.

“I think a lot of it comes down to timing and circumstances,” Berhalter said Friday in Qatar. “If you look at how the games went, we had the lead and we had to keep the lead later in the games. The only game where we didn’t have this scenario, we actually included it to help [try] got the win.

“So this is how we can use it in the most effective way. A really talented player. And we’re looking for the right moment, but he can definitely help this team.”

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