AL RAYYAN, Qatar – It’s the story surrounding the US men’s national team that Gregg Berhalter wishes they would stop talking about.
The curious case of John Reyna.
The 20-year-old winger has been a hot topic since before the World Cup began, and not of his own free will. The closest thing to US Soccer royalty as the son of two-time USA World Cup captain Claudio Reyna and former US Women’s National Team player Danielle Egan, Reyna is one of the young stars brightest in a team full of bright stars. He thought he would play a huge role for the Americans in Qatar, but he has been largely absent from the field so far.
Reyna, who has played 15 games, four goals and one assist since her first call-up in 2020, did not play in the Americans’ first game against Welsh and entered in the 83rd minute against England.
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As the United States faces World Cup elimination on Tuesday in their third and final group stage match against Iran at the Al Thumama Stadium (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), a question lingers: What about Reyna?
The Americans have to win on Tuesday to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. Iran, on the other hand, only need a draw to progress to the round of 16 thanks to a 2-0 win over Wales on Friday.
[For the USMNT, the knockout round has arrived early]
Berhalter’s starting lineup has been largely the same in two games, except for the striker position. joseph sergeant started against Wales and haji wright he got the nod against England. There is a belief that Jesus Ferreirathe third real striker in this squad could start against Iran.
Berhalter was asked on Monday how he would assess the play of his central forwards so far, and if he would consider playing Reyna in that role to give Iran a different look. Berhalter responded by saying that Sargent had a good chance at the near post against Wales and that Wright was effective against England. He acknowledged that his team could have been better in the penalty area, but “it’s up to the rest of the group to give them a quality service so they can finish off some occasions.”
As for Reyna, Berhalter had this to say: “I think in terms of alternatives at the forward position, we’re comfortable with the three we have. We haven’t necessarily thought about putting Gio there or Christian [Pulisic] there or timmy weah there or jordan morris there. We’ve been more focused on the three we have in camp.”
[Forget tactics and lineups: For USMNT, it’s about having right mentality]
Reyna, at 6-foot-1, is a dangerous attacking player when healthy. She is an intelligent, technical striker with brilliant skills on the ball and was the youngest American to appear in the UEFA Champions League in 2020 (then 17), breaking the record previously set by Pulisic. He is widely considered one of the greatest talents US Soccer has ever had.
Over the past year, Reyna has experienced injuries that have limited his availability for the national team during qualifying and also for his Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund. He played in his club’s last three matches before the World Cup break and was, for all intents and purposes, considered a healthy and fit member of Berhalter’s 26-man roster.
Reyna told reporters that she felt “100% healthy” after the Wales match despite not playing. Berhalter decided to bring substitutes Brenden Aaronsonwright, DeAndre Yedlin Y Kelly Acosta as the USA led 1-0, and then Morris came on in the 88th minute. Berhalter said the same night that Reyna might have experienced “a bit of a squeeze” in a game earlier in the week against Al-Gharafa SC of Qatar, noting that they were “building it up and I think it can play an important role in the tournament. The question is when.” Reyna then played around 20 minutes in the second game against England.
Asking Berhalter about Reyna’s status has now become A Thing. And the coach is irritated by the line of questioning. But even former US captain Landon Donovan wants to know what’s going on.
“He comes into this tournament, we all have him booked for the starting line-up and all of a sudden he doesn’t step on the field against Wales and we’re like, ‘What’s going on here?'” Donovan said on FOX ahead of the England game. “I’m not sure what the reality is. He says one thing, Gregg says another. I don’t know, but we need this guy on the field if we’re going to be successful.”
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Perhaps all questions will be answered on Tuesday night in what is arguably the biggest game in US Soccer history. Or maybe the mystery could continue.