United States Men's National Team soccer manager Gregg Berhalter (C) said that one player, later identified as Giovanni Reyna, was nearly sent home from the 2022 World Cup due to a lack of effort. File Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Attacking midfielder Giovanni Reyna, who saw limited action for the United States Men's National Team at the 2022 World Cup, was nearly sent home from the soccer tournament due to a lack of effort.
U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter spoke about the situation Tuesday at the HOW Institute for Society's Summit on Moral Leadership in New York, but did not reveal the player's name.
Sources confirmed to ESPN, The Athletic and MLSSoccer.com on Sunday that the player Berhalter spoke about was Reyna.
"In this last World Cup, we had a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field," Berhalter said. "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.' 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."
Sources told The Athletic that Reyna showed the lack of effort during training for the Americans' Qatar 2022 opener against Wales, including at a scrimmage, and at an additional training session after that match. Several teammates and coaches then spoke to Reyna about that.
"Gio obviously did not have the experience anyone hoped for at the World Cup," Reyna's agent, Dan Segal, told the Athletic.
"The situation, relationships and interactions among parties are far more complicated than what has been reported. It is disappointing and disrespectful for certain parties to be commenting on private team matters publicly, especially when some do so without full knowledge of the facts and others do so in a self-serving manner.
"At this point, our view is that nothing more is gained by those associated with the national team turning on each other, and we plan no further comment on this matter."
Reyna, 20, was hampered by several injuries in the year before the World Cup, but told reporters he was healthy in Qatar. He did not play in the Americans' opener against Wales. He entered in the 83rd minute of the Americans' draw with England, but was not used in the group stage finale, a 1-0 win over Iran.
Reyna was a second-half substitute in the USA's 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16. He recently rejoined Borussia Dortmund teammates back in Germany. He scored on a powerful half-volley strike in Borussia Dortmund's 2-1 friendly win over Rapid Bucharest on Saturday in Bucharest, Romania.
Berhalter told ESPN that his comments at the HOW Institute for Society's Summit on Moral Leadership were meant to be off the record. He later told the same outlet that it's "not really important" who the player was.
"The important thing is that the group had very clear standards and they were prepared to communicate if the standards weren't being met," Berhalter said. "Sometimes that communication leads to positive change and a clear pathway forward."
The Americans scored just three goals in their four matches at the 2022 World Cup. Reyna scored four times in 16 career appearances for senior national team.
Argentina will face Croatia in the first of two World Cup semifinals at 2 p.m. EST Tuesday on Fox. France will then meet Morocco in the other semifinal at 2 p.m. Wednesday on the same network. The World Cup final will air at 10 a.m. Sunday on Fox.
A Morocco fan supports his team while wearing a costume during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Semi-Final match between Morocco and France at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on December 14, 2022. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo