A lingering question as the US prepares for Iran: What’s wrong with Gio Reina?

AL-RAYAN, Qatar — It’s the story surrounding the US men’s national team that Greg Berhalter wishes he’d stopped talking about.

strange case Giovanni Reyna.

The 20-year-old winger has been a hot topic since before the World Cup, and not by doing so. Reina — closest to American soccer royalty as the son of two-time US World Cup captain Claudio Reina and former US women’s national team player Danielle Egan — is one of the brightest young stars in a star-studded squad. He was thought to play a big role for the Americans in Qatar, but he has been mostly absent from the field so far.

Reyna, who has 15 caps, four goals and one assist since being called up for the first time in 2020, did not play in the Americans’ first game against. Wells It came in the 83rd minute against England.

The United States faces World Cup elimination on Tuesday in its third and final group stage match against them Iran at Al Thumama Stadium2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), a lingering question: What’s the deal with Rina?

USMNT’s Gio Reyna on his personal journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

USMNT's Gio Reyna on his personal journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

The Americans must win on Tuesday to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. Iran, on the other hand, only needs a draw to move into the last 16 thanks to a 2-0 win over Wales on Friday.

[For the USMNT, the knockout round has arrived early]

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Berhalter’s starting line-up has been mostly the same through two games, with the exception of the striker. Josh Sargent He started against Wales and Haji Wright Got a nod against England. There is a belief that Jesus Ferreirathe third real striker in this team, could start against Iran.

Berhalter was asked on Monday how he would rate his position’s performance so far, and whether he would consider playing Reina in that role to give Iran a different look. Berhalter responded by saying that Sargent had a good chance at the near goal against Wales and 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 serve so they can finish some chances.”

As for Reina, Berhalter said: “I think in terms of substitutes in the center forward position, we’re comfortable with the three we have. We didn’t necessarily consider putting Gio there or Christian [Pulisic] there or Timmy Weah there or Jordan Morris there. We’ve focused more on the three we have in camp.”

[Forget tactics and lineups: For USMNT, it’s about having right mentality]

The 6-foot-1 Rena is a dangerous attacking player when healthy. He’s an intelligent and technical striker with impressive ball skills and was the youngest American to appear in the UEFA Champions League in 2020 (then 17), breaking the record previously held by Pulisic. He is widely considered one of the greatest talents American football has ever had.

During the past year, Reina suffered injuries that limited his availability for the national team during the qualifiers as well as for the Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund. He played in his team’s last three matches before the World Cup break and for all intents and purposes was considered a healthy and fit member of Berhalter’s 26-man squad.

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Reina told reporters he felt “100% healthy” after the Wales match, despite not playing. Berhalter decided to bring in replacements Brendan AronsonI have seen DeAndre Yedlin And the Clin Acosta As the United States led 1-0, then Morris came on in the 88th minute. Berhalter said the same night that Reyna may have experienced “a little bit of malaise” from a scuffle earlier in the week against Qatari club Al-Gharafa, and noted that they were “building it up and thinking it He can play a big role in the tournament, and the question is when.” Reina then played about 20 minutes in the second match against England.

Berhalter’s question about Rena’s status is now a thing. The coach seemed angry at the line of questioning. But even former US captain Landon Donovan wants to know what’s going on.

“He came into this tournament, we all put him in the starting line-up and all of a sudden, he doesn’t step on the pitch against Wales and we’re thinking, ‘What’s going on here?'” He said on FOX before the England game. “I’m not sure about reality. He says one thing, Greg says another. I don’t know, but we need this guy on the field if we’re going to be successful.”

Perhaps all questions will be answered on Tuesday night in what is arguably the biggest game in American football history. Or perhaps the mystery continues.

Iran vs. USA preview: Will the USMNT be knocked out in the group stage?

Iran vs. USA preview: Will the USMNT be knocked out in the group stage?

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball, and soccer for FOX Sports. She has previously written for Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of Strong Like a Woman, which will be published in the spring of 2022 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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