USA’s 2022 World Cup journey ended at the Round of 16 stage, thanks to a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands. The team did well to qualify from the group that also had England, Wales and Iran, but one victory and two draws were enough to secure safe passage to the knockout stages.
Several players played their parts well while representing the United States, like Timothy Weah, Pulisic and Weston McKennie.
Whereas some failed to see any minutes on the pitch even after coming to Qatar.
One player, however, was nearly even denied the opportunity to come to the middle east, with several reports now coming out that the player’s attitude and work rate meant certain players and coaches had reservations about him.
This player is none other that the highly-rated Giovanni Reyna.
Reyna failed to start any of the four games of the tournament but did play the whole of the second 45 of the game against the Dutch.
The revelation of the player almost not making it in the squad came from United States’ manager Gregg Berhalter, who on Tuesday when speaking at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership, New York.
Berhalter claimed that the squad “had a player 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.”
While the manager did not name the player, a report from The Athletic later identify this to be Reyna.
Coming from footballing parents, with both mother and father representing the country, Gio first received his national call-up in November 2020.
However, his lack of commitment and issues with his behaviour apparently caused the coaches and players to question the decision of including him in the world cup squad.
Allegedly, a vote was taken among the remaining 25 players on whether the 20-year-old should stay in the squad. The vote ended 13-12 in favour of keeping the player.
That being said, Taylor Twellman of ESPN has since denied the player vote story. There was a vote, but among the staff and the coaches, not the players.
What exactly happened behind the scenes is anyone’s guess, with every reporter pitching in with an “exclusive”.
Though, in the same address, Berhalter did say that all issues were indeed spoken about and sorted and there ‘were no issues with this player’.
“But the other thing we said to him was, you’re going to have to apologize to the group, but it’s going to have to say why you’re apologizing. It’s going to have to go deeper than just, ‘Guys, I’m sorry.’ And I prepped the leadership group with this. I said, ‘OK, this guy is going to apologize to you as a group, to the whole team.”
“And what was fantastic in this whole thing is that after he apologized, they stood up one by one and said, ‘Listen, it hasn’t been good enough. You haven’t been meeting our expectations of a teammate and we want to see change.’ They really took ownership of that process. And from that day on there were no issues with this player.“
Whether this apology was given before the cup or during, or maybe even after, is unclear, as Reyna played very limited minutes.
But as a young player, he will have more opportunities and he should use this as a learning opportunity to rectify whatever mistakes he did.
Not all coaches are going to be as forgiving. And with football on the rise in the US, there will be no lack of talent waiting to replace the bad eggs of the basket.