Gio Reyna returns to USMNT amid a scandal that US Soccer says will not affect him


Gio Reyna will join Christian Pulisic and 11 other 2022 World Cup veterans in the USMNT’s first competitive roster since Qatar. (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Among the many unanswered questions emerging from the Berhalter-Reyna saga, the one most pertinent to the future of American football revolves around a 20-year-old, his interpretation of his parents’ behavior and the investigation that brought it to light are unclear.

No one knows how Gio Reyna, arguably the most talented footballer this country has ever produced, is currently feeling about the scandal that engulfed the US men’s World Cup aftermath.

We, the public, do not know how he dealt with the slander of his father and mother; We do not know what past, present and interim feelings he may have towards USMNT and the US Soccer leadership.

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So it was remarkable that, despite assurances from US football that it would not affect Gio’s standing within the team, he accepted an appeal this week ahead of the USMNT’s first two competitive games since Qatar.

And according to caretaker manager Anthony Hudson, who spoke to Gio this week and earlier, “there was no hesitation.” Hudson said on Wednesday, when he met with Gio in person and later extended the invitation, “To be honest, I’ve never felt any resistance [him] Come back.”

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tim Ream and nine other European-based World Cup veterans also accepted call-ups. Zack Steffen, Ricardo Pepi, Daryl Dike and Miles Robinson are back. Taylor Booth, Auston Trusty and recently signed Alejandro Zendejas could make their competitive debuts against Grenada or El Salvador later this month.

But Reyna is, of course, the most notable name in the USMNT’s 24-man squad for these CONCACAF Nations League games.

Since his 53 World Cup minutes and his deep disappointment, Reyna has admitted in Qatar “I let my emotions get the better of me”, particularly after being told his role on the field at the tournament would be limited. But in the same statement posted to Instagram a week after the USMNT’s elimination, as an anonymously sourced report and comments by Gregg Berhalter circulated, he questioned the “highly fictionalized versions of events” that had been portrayed. He also wrote that he was “extremely surprised that anyone from the US men’s team would contribute to” the ongoing coverage – an implicit reference to Berhalter, who believed his comments were confidential.

The following month, Gio was back on form with his club side Borussia Dortmund as drama swept his parents. In Dortmund’s first game from the Bundesliga World Cup break, he scored a world-class winner. He celebrated defiantly, with a “Pst” and a chattering motion and two fingers in his ears. Three days later, he scored a second straight winner.

But throughout the winter, particularly when his playing time at Dortmund all but disappeared in February, uncertainty about his USMNT future lingered.

Hudson, a former Berhalter assistant and now US interim chief, visited Gio in Germany last month and tried to quell that uncertainty. “He’s a talented, important player, a young player and that needed to be addressed,” Hudson told The Athletic. He said the meeting “went well”. He noted that Reyna reacted positively when confronted with his lack of effort in Qatar. “Beyond that, I don’t see Gio’s involvement in anything,” he said, citing the rift and the investigations involving his parents and coach.

US players have also attempted to resolve the issue. Speaking on a podcast in December, Ream called it a “non-story.” Walker Zimmerman noted in January that Reyna was among the USMNT players in a fantasy football group chat and said he had been in contact with Reyna and Berhalter since Qatar. “It is not a problem for us to keep in touch with them. We are friends. We are close. It’s not a problem for us,” Zimmerman said.

Hudson emphasized that “the other stuff” — the helicopter education and meddling; the vague threats from Gio’s parents, Claudio and Danielle; the allegation that launched Berhalter’s attack on his now-wife in 1992 – “is separate from the child, from the player”.

He repeated this Wednesday. Two days after US Soccer released an investigative report that likely permanently tarnished Claudio’s and Danielle’s reputations, which detailed descriptions by now-former athletic director Earnie Stewart of Gio’s World Cup “mop.”[ing]’ — and two days after US Soccer said in a statement that Berhalter, whose contract expired on December 31, remains a candidate to reclaim his job long-term — Hudson said in a press release that “as far as we’re concerned, Gio is part of our program. He’s a good guy and a top talent and he’s going to be judged like any other player.”

The bigger question is whether Gio feels all of this. Hudson declined to go into the details of their conversations. He acknowledged that Gio was “struck” by the “very, very complex situation” above him and that it would be “challenging” for anyone to navigate. But Gio, according to Hudson, “seems to be in a good place in a sense that I can see that he’s firmly focused on his football, his game and coming back to camp.”

So, like 23 other players, Gio will report to Orlando next week. The USMNT will then fly to Grenada for a game on March 24 (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT/Universo/Peacock) before heading to the CONCACAF Nations League Group Finals on March 27 (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT/Peacock). returns to Florida against El Salvador. Universe/Peacock). The USA need only avoid defeat in both games to qualify for the Nations League finals in June.

Below is the full list. The most notable absentee, captain Tyler Adams, suffered a hamstring injury in training at his club Leeds United this week. The next most notable absentees are Josh Sargent, Chris Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

USMNT’s March List

GOALKEEPER (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

DEFENDERS (8): Sergiño Dest (AC Milan), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City ). )

MIDFELD (6): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds), Johnny Cardoso (International), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Alan Sonora (Juarez)

FORWARD (7): Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Daryl Dike (West Brom), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tim Weah (Lille), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)

USMNT’s split-squad plan for 2023

Robinson is the only MLS player in the squad and that’s by design. With friendlies in January and April outside of FIFA windows booking this March camp, and with two CONCACAF tournaments this summer, USMNT staff are planning a split-squad approach similar to what they used in 2021.

Players from Europe were not available in January and will not be available when the USA take on Mexico on April 19th. They will also need a break when a grueling World Cup-marked club season comes to a close in June.

MLS players, meanwhile, were available in January and will be available in April. They will be available for both the Nations League Final (June) and the Gold Cup (June-July) but taking part in both would see them removed from their clubs for over a month at the heart of the MLS season.

“So,” Hudson said Wednesday, balancing all of those factors, “so that we can really plan for this and have strong teams in all of these competitions, we decided to pick the team in a certain way for these next couple of camps that are coming up high.” “

In all likelihood, the Euro-heavy squad will return to the Nations League final in early June and then head into the off-season. An America-based squad will return for the isolated friendly in April and most – if not all – of those players will play the Gold Cup in late June and early July. There could be some overlap and some geographic divergence, as was the case in 2021. But there won’t be much.

“We did that in 2021, it worked very well where we obviously won both tournaments and we did it more or less with two separate squads,” Hudson said. “We felt comfortable with that, we’ve done it before. And it also made sense to work with clubs and not overwhelm the players.”

And Robinson, the only exception to the rule this month? He is working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. In April, players will go from the weekend’s league games to Wednesday’s friendly in Arizona to another round of league games the following weekend — a heavy burden.

“We think it’s important for him to try as best he can to play one game a week instead of really overloading him with two games,” Hudson said of Robinson. “In that way, we felt that this camp was a better fit for April camp.”

Oh, and also, “We just want to bring him back in and see him and work with him and put him back in the squad,” for the first time in almost a year.

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