A lingering question as USA preps for Iran: What’s up with Gio Reyna?

AL RAYYAN – Gregg Berhalter would like to see the story of the U.S. men’s national team ceased being discussed.

The curious case of Giovanni Reyna .

The 20-year-old winger has been a hot-button topic since before the World Cup began, and not by his own doing. Reyna, the son of Claudio Reyna, two-time U.S. World Cup Captain, and Danielle Egan, former U.S. women’s national team player, is one of the brightest young stars in a team full bright stars. Although he was expected to play a major role in the Americans’ victory in Qatar, he has been mostly absent from the field.

Reyna, who has 15 caps, four goals and one assist since his first call-up in 2020, did not play in the Americans’ first match against Wales and came on in the 83rd minute against England.

As the U.S. faces World Cup elimination on Tuesday in its third and final group stage match against Iran at Al Thumama Stadium (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sport App . A question lingers: What’s the deal about Gio Reyna, USMNT’s personal journey to the 88 FIFA World CupFIXAPP

USMNT’s Gio Reyna on his personal journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

The Americans have to win Tuesday to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. Iran, on the other hand, only needs a tie to move onto the round of 16 thanks to a 2-0 victory over Wales on Friday.

[For the USMNT, the knockout round has arrived early]

Berhalter’s starting lineup has been mostly the same through two games, except at striker. Josh Sargent started against Wales and Haji Wright got the nod against England. There’s a belief that Jesus Ferreira, the third true striker on this squad, could start against Iran.

Berhalter was asked on Monday how he would assess the play of his center forwards so far, and if he would consider playing Reyna in that role to give Iran a different look. Berhalter said that Sargent had a good chance at the near post against Wales, and Wright was effective against England. Berhalter acknowledged that his team could have done better in the penalty area, but said that it was up to the rest to provide quality service to ensure they get the best possible result.

Reyna was not impressed by Berhalter’s comments. “I think in terms if alternatives at the striker positions, we are comfortable using the three that we currently have. We haven’t necessarily thought about putting Gio in there or Christian [Pulisic] there or Timmy Weah there or Jordan Morris there. We have been more focused on the three camp members.

[Forget tactics and lineups: For USMNT, it’s about having right mentality]

The 6-foot-1 Reyna is a dangerous attacking player when healthy. He’s a smart and technical forward with brilliant ball skills and was the youngest American to appear in the UEFA Champions League in 2020 (then 17), breaking the record formerly set by Pulisic. He is widely considered one of the best talents U.S. Soccer has ever seen.

Over the past year, Reyna experienced injuries that limited his availability for the national team during qualifying and also for his Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund. He played in his club’s final three games before the World Cup break and for all intents and purposes, he was deemed a healthy and fit member of Berhalter’s 26-man roster.

Reyna told reporters that he felt “100% healthy” after the Wales game despite not playing. Berhalter decided to bring on substitutes Brenden Aaronson, Wright, DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta while the U.S. led 1-0, and then Morris came on in the 88th minute. Berhalter stated that Reyna might have felt a bit tighter after a scrimmage against Qatar club team Al-Gharafa SC. He also noted that they were “building him and believe he can play an important role in the tournament.” The question is when? Reyna then played about 20 minutes in the second match against England.

Asking Berhalter about Reyna’s status has now become A Thing. The coach seems annoyed by the questioning. Even Landon Donovan, the former captain of the United States, wants to know what’s happening.

“He arrives at this tournament, and we all have him in the starting lineup. But then he suddenly doesn’t take to the field against Wales. We’re wondering, “What’s the deal?” Donovan spoke on FOX before the England match. “I don’t know what the truth is. Gregg may say one thing while he says another. We need this guy on the pitch if we want to be successful.

Perhaps all questions will be answered on Tuesday night in what’s arguably the biggest game in U.S. Soccer history. Or maybe the mystery will continue.

Iran vs. United States Preview: Will the USMNT make it out of the Group Stage?

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She has previously written for Sports Illustrated and USA Today. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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