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Gio Reyna nearly booted from USMNT during the World Cup

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter admitted that he almost sent a player home during the World Cup. Here’s a look at what happened and who it was. 

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter said he had seriously considered shipping a player back home during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Berhalter said the player, who he did not identify, “was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field.”

MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert was the first on Sunday to identify the player as 20-year-old attacking midfielder Gio Reyna.

The Athletic, citing multiple sources, reported that the spat helped explain why Reyna played so little during the tournament.

The sources, who requested anonymity, said Reyna showed a lack of effort in training ahead of the team’s first game against Wales on Nov. 21, including in a scrimmage versus Qatar-based club Al Gharafa SC on Nov. 17.

Reyna’s lack of intensity, The Athletic reported, “caused significant frustration within the team.”

“The lack of effort was so pronounced that it was unclear whether Reyna was protecting against an injury or just frustrated that he was not set to be a starter against Wales,” according to the report.

Berhalter made the comments at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York on Dec. 6 after returning from Qatar, where the Americans were eliminated from the World Cup by the Netherlands last Saturday in the round of 16.

According to an edited transcript published by the Charter newsletter, Berhalter said that “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’s version of the story is as follows:

An example I can give you: In this last World Cup, we 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. 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.’ And I prepped the leadership group with this. I said, ‘Okay, 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.

As a coach, the way you can deal with things most appropriately is going back to your values. Because it’s difficult to send a player home. It was going to be a massive controversy. You would have been reading about it for five days straight. But we were prepared to do it, because he wasn’t meeting the standards of the group, and the group was prepared to do it as well.

Reyna, who plays his club soccer for German club Borussia Dortmund, played the second half of the Netherlands game.

Reyna’s agent Dan Segal released a statement after Berhalter’s comments were made public on Sunday, saying, “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.

“At this point, our view is that nothing more is gained by those associated with the national team turning on each other, and we plan no further comment on this matter.”

A U.S. Soccer spokesman said Berhalter’s comments were not for publication.

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