US midfielder Gio Reyna responded to quotes from USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter which hinted that the talented soccer player was benched during the World Cup for "not meeting expectations on and off the field."
Berhalter revealed the team's concerns about a player when he spoke last week at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York. Excerpts of his remarks were later published in a newsletter by Charter Works, which analyzes management and workplace trends.
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 3: Gio Reyna #7 of the United States turns and moves with the ball during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Netherlands and USMNT at Khalifa International Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo b
"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,’" Berhalter went on. "And I prepped the leadership group with this. I said, ‘OK, 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."
While Berhalter didn't identify the player, several media outlets reported Sunday it was Reyna, and a person familiar with the matter confirmed the identity to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.
Reyna released a statement on Monday about the issues.
"I hoped not to comment on matters at the World Cup. It is my belief that things that happen in a team setting ought to remain private. That being said, statements have been made that reflect on my professionalism and character, so I feel the need to make a brief statement," said Reyna
"Just before the World Cup, Coach Berhalter told me that my role at the tournament would be very limited. I was devasted. I am someone who plays with pride and passion. Soccer is my life, and I believe in my abilities. I fully expected and desperately wanted to contribute to the play of a talented group as we tried to make a statement at the World Cup.
I am also a very emotional person, and I fully acknowledge that I let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior for a few days after learning about my limited role. I apologized to my teammates and coach for this, and I was told I was forgiven. Thereafter, I shook off my disappointment and gave everything I had on and off the field.
I am disappointed that there is continuing coverage of this matter (as well as some highly fictionalized versions of events) and extremely surprised that anyone on the U.S. men's team staff would contribute to it. Coach Berhalter has always said that issues that arise with the team will stay "in house" so we can focus on team unity and progress. I love my team, I love representing my country, and I am focusing now only on improving and growing as a soccer player and a person. I hope that going forward each person involved in U.S. Soccer focuses only on what is in the best interest of the men's national team so we can enjoy great success at the World Cup in 2026."
Reyna, generally thought to be one of the USMNT's best players, appeared in just two games for the US as a sub.
Berhalter gave differing statements about Reyna's health throughout the tournament.
Reyna, 20, plays his club soccer in Germany for Borussia Dortmund.
The Associated Press contributed to this report