United States Men’s National Team and Borussia Dortmund winger Gio Reyna said that he’s “100 percent” healthy despite his being an unused substitute in yesterday’s 1-1 draw against Wales in the Group B opener for both sides. Meanwhile USA Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said Reyna was left on the bench due to his taking precautions about the player’s health.
So something here just doesn’t add up. Either Reyna is 100% match fit, or he is not. if he’s not ready to play, then why was he included in the match day squad? This really doesn’t make any sense, at all, but apparently it will all be moot heading into Friday’s clash against England.
Here’s what both parties said after the match, one where Reyna could and should have featured, with the USA manager calling on (the much inferior quality) Jordan Morris instead.
“It was trying to get him up to speed. I think there was a little bit of tightness that we were guarding him against in Al-Gharafa in the training exercise as a precaution,” Berhalter said.
“But we’ve been building him up and think he can play a big role in this tournament. The question is when. Hopefully Friday, he’ll be another step ahead.”
However, Berhalter also went ahead and said something more definitive, adding: “Gio will be available for England.”
Reyna’s battled injuries for most of the first half of the season with his German club, Borussia Dortmund, but has played a pivotal role in the Star and Stripes’ qualifiers to get to Qatar. He’s also well up to match fitness, featuring in Dortmund’s last three Bundesliga fixtures prior to the international break.
Meanwhile the player himself, the offspring of both a USMNT and USWNT international said: “I feel really good. I feel great. I feel fine. [Coach Gregg Berhalter] doesn’t have to tell me why he didn’t put me in or why he does.”
After the match when asked about Reyna, Berhalter said that the team did a check on him due to muscle soreness, but that given the phase of the match, they chose to go with Morris instead.
Although, in an interview with Yahoo Sports after the match, Reyna acknowledged that he had experienced some tightness these past few days.
“I mean, you never know, you can’t say if you’re going to or not. But I was definitely excited to play … It’s not my decision,” he reportedly said in the mixed zone.
Berhalter has said and done enough to make us question his decisions. Even how he got the gig (his brother was a high ranking USSF executive at the time Berhalter was hired) in the first place gives us sufficient reason to skeptical of his line of thinking.
That said, and to be fair, Berhalter would also have a right to be cautious with Reyna, as he’s had a rash of muscular injuries in recent years. Would Reyna coming on lead to a second goal yesterday, and with it, two more points in the standings? Very hard to say, and I guess we’ll never know.
Paul M. Banks is the Owner/Manager of The Sports Bank and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”