Wednesday, July 17, 2024

USMNT’s Gio Reyna and Gregg Berhalter on road to repairing relationship and already reaping benefits

For young star Gio Reyna and U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter, their issues seems to be a thing of the past, and as long as Reyna can stay healthy, the future still looks as bright as ever. With a first-half brace that included a goal from a training ground play on an indirect free kick, Reyna helped lead the team to a 4-0 victory over Ghana and ends this international window with two goals in only 90 minutes played. 

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Late last year, both his future and Berhalter’s were up in the air after the revelation of a domestic violence incident from 1991 involving Berhalter and his then-girlfriend and now-wife Rosalind Berhalter. Those who brought the altercation to the attention of the U.S. Soccer Federation were none other than Danielle Reyna and Claudio Reyna, the parents Gio Reyna, after the young talent was not getting minutes at the World Cup and with his coach, without saying his name specifically, referencing the poor attitude of a specific player during the World Cup in Qatar. That ended up being revealed as Gio Reyna.

Fast forward several months, and Berhalter was brought back on board after an investigation into the incident and Reyna is back into the fold after dealing with more injuries. Now, with the noise potentially behind them, look out. As Berhalter put it, they are moving forwad, and that only helps the group dynamic. 

Berhalter’s goal was for Reyna to gain fitness with the national team while he’d return to Dortmund in better shape than he joined the team in, and that’s a goal that was accomplished with flying colors and then some. With his play on the pitch doing the talking, Reyna is putting the events from and following the 2022 World Cup behind him as the sky is the limit for this 20-year-old.

“The goal for Gio was to play two 45-minute halves much like [Folarin Balogun] last camp. You want to send him off on a good way but a lot of that has to do with the player, the player’s mindset, and what I’ve seen from training session number one in this camp was an extreme amount of focus and ability,” Berhalter said on Reyna’s performance following the match. “So when he plays like that, like he did this entire camp, he’s certainly a guy that can help this group and it’s really good to see him respond like that.”

Within the context of the national team, Reyna is one of the members with the highest ceiling, but Berhalter and the team are only able to utilize him a few times per year due to injuries. He can push Christian Pulisic in attack while also feeding Balogun and exploiting the space created by Tim Weah’s runs. That’s why, when healthy, Reyna is becoming almost irreplaceable.

This situation presents Berhalter with a good problem. While it seemed like the midfield trio of Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie was inseparable during the World Cup, soccer time waits for no one, and Adams’ own injury struggles have opened the door for Reyna’s opportunity.

“It always has a different look when Tyler’s missing, but when you have work horses in there still whether it’s Johnny or Weston or Yunus or Luca … Gio even dropped into midfield today so there were definitely guys that can produce,” Berhalter said on how the midfield looked without Adams. “Produce passes and produce dangerous attacks. So overall, I think the midfield did a good job in this game and we’re going to continue to evaluate moving forward.”

Playing as an attacking midfielder, Reyna completed 30 of his 31 passes in the match and was effective defensively. Like Yunus Musah, Reyna is a player who can act as a safety valve in midfield, excelling with the ball at his feet, making things happen no matter where he receives the ball. As Berhalter looks to adjust the team moving forward, it may come down to Reyna and Adams rotating depending on the opposition.

Given their injury history, this approach helps manage the workload of his midfielders while keeping the opposition guessing about what to expect. One day it may be McKennie who sits, and on others, it could be Musah. If Cardoso and Lennard Maloney work out, Berhalter could even deploy dual defensive midfielders to handle top opposition. With Concacaf Nations League play approaching in November to secure a spot in the 2024 Copa America, the time is ripe for the USMNT to hit their stride.

Heading back to Dortmund, Reyna not only has a platform to demonstrate why he deserves to be a regular for the Black and Yellow but will also return with the confidence of scoring for his country and having what feels like a fresh start. Reyna’s growth has been evident since the World Cup, and as he accumulates more minutes for both his club and country, he can develop into a leader for the side, similar to Pulisic’s trajectory. Alongside one of the most talented attacking lines that the USMNT have ever had, Reyna and the team have the potential to make the coming years the most memorable in program history. 

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