NEW YORK -- American midfielder Gio Reyna almost was sent home from the World Cup because of a lack of hustle in training, for which he later apologized.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter revealed the team's concerns about a player when he spoke last week at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York. Excerpts of his remarks were later published in a newsletter by Charter Works, which analyzes management and workplace trends.
“In this last World Cup, we had a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field,” Berhalter was quoted as saying. “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. And what it came down to was, we’re going to have one more conversation with him, and part of the conversation was how we’re going to behave from here out. There aren’t going to be any more infractions.”
“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,’” Berhalter went on. “And I prepped the leadership group with this. I said, ‘OK, this guy’s 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.”
While Berhalter didn't identify the player, several media outlets reported Sunday it was Reyna, and a person familiar with the matter confirmed the identity to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.
“Just before the World Cup, coach Berhalter told me that my role at the tournament would be very limited. I was devasted,” Reyna said in a statement Monday. “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,” Reyna said. “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.”
Charter posted an editor's note Sunday that said: “Berhalter’s comments were ... erroneously greenlit for publication by someone representing the event organizers.”
“There was never an intention for the content to become public nor for the identity of the player to become known,” Berhalter said in a statement.
“It was the team’s strong culture which enabled us to work through the issue and emerge in a stronger, more unified position,” Berhalter said.
Reyna, a son of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna and former U.S. women’s national team player Danielle Egan, missed most of Borussia Dortmund’s 2021-22 season because of leg injuries and has not played a 90-minute match this season as his condition was monitored.
“I am disappointed that there is continuing coverage of this matter ... and extremely surprised that anyone on the U.S. men’s team staff would contribute to it,” Reyna said. “Coach Berhalter has always said that issues that arise with the team will stay ‘in house.'”
Reyna turned 20 the week before the World Cup and did not play in the Americans' opening 1-1 draw against Wales on Nov. 21, sparking questions for Berhalter. Reyna appeared for the last eight minutes of the 0-0 draw against England four days later, did not play in the 1-0 win over Iran on Nov. 29 and entered the 3-1, round-of-16 loss to the Netherlands at the start of the second half with the Americans trailing by two goals.
Berhalter said after the opener that Reyna felt “tightness” after a Nov. 17 friendly against Al-Gharafa but did not specify where. Reyna said after the Wales match, “I felt ready to go.”
Eric Wynalda, a former teammate of Claudio Reyna, told the Los Angeles Times on a Twitter Spaces interview ahead of the England game there was “internal strife with the manager” regarding Gio Reyna.
“He was fit to play," Wynalda said. “Berhalter did lie to the media and say that it was an injury, asked the player to kind of go along with that story, which caused a rift between the two of them.”
Berhalter said on Nov. 28: “I’ll leave it to you to decide if I asked Gio to lie about it. That's just not who I am.
“So if you have to take Eric’s word or my word or whatever, feel free. But I know what happened.”
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