College Football & Football Analyst
Al Rayyan, Qatar — The story surrounding the U.S. men’s national team is one Greg Berhalter wants to stop talking about.
The curious case of John Reena.
The 20-year-old winger has been a hot-button topic since before the start of the World Cup, and not by his own doing. Reyna — the son of two-time U.S. World Cup captain Claudio Reyna and former U.S. women’s national team player Danielle Egan — is close to U.S. soccer royalty — one of the brightest young stars on a star-studded team. He figures to play a bigger role for the Americans in Qatar, but so far has been largely absent from the field.
Raina, who has 15 caps, four goals and one assist since his first call-up in 2020, did not play in the first match against the Americans. Wales came in the 83rd minute against England.
The U.S. faces the World Cup final on Tuesday Iran At Al Thumama Stadium (2 pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), one question lingers: What’s the deal with Raina?
USMNT’s Gio Reyna on his personal journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup
The Americans need a win on Tuesday to advance to the tournament’s knockout rounds. Iran, on the other hand, needed only a tie to progress to the round of 16 after beating Wales 2-0 on Friday.
[For the USMNT, the knockout round has arrived early]
Berhalter’s starting lineup was largely the same in the two games, except for the striker. Josh Sargent Started against Wales and Haji Wright Won against England. There is a belief that Jesus FerreiraA third true striker in this squad could start against Iran.
Berhalder was asked on Monday how he would assess the play of his centre-forwards and whether he would consider playing Reina in that role to give Iran a different look. Berhalter replied that Sargent had a good chance in the post against Wales and Wright did well against England. He admitted his side could have been better in the penalty box, but “it’s up to the other team to give them quality service to finish off some chances.”
As for Reina, Berhalder said: “In terms of alternatives in the striker position, we are comfortable with the three we have. We don’t necessarily think about adding Gio there or Christian [Pulisic] There or Timmy Weah There or Jordan Morris there. We’re focusing more on the three in camp.”
[Forget tactics and lineups: For USMNT, it’s about having right mentality]
The 6-foot-1 Raina is a dangerous offensive player when healthy. He is a smart and technical forward with brilliant ball skills and became the youngest American to appear in the UEFA Champions League in 2020 (then 17), breaking the record previously set by Pulisic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest talents to ever grace American football.
In the past year, Reina has suffered injuries that have limited his availability for the national team during the qualifiers and for his Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund. He played in his club’s final three games before the World Cup break, and for all intents and purposes, he was considered a healthy and fit member of Berhalter’s 26-man roster.
Raina told reporters after the Wales game that he felt “100% fit” despite not playing. Berhalter decided to bring in substitutes Brendan AaronsonWright, DeAndre Yedlin And Kelly’s Acosta The U.S. led 1-0, then Morris came on in the 88th minute. On the same night, Berhalder said that Reina might be experiencing “a bit of stiffness” from the scrimmage earlier in the week against Qatari club side Al-Qarafa SC, and noted that they are “building him up and think he can play a big role”. Competition. It’s a question of when.” Raina then played around 20 minutes in the second match against England.
Asking Berhalder about Raina’s status now became a matter of course. And the coach was irritated by the line of questioning. But even former US captain Landon Donovan wants to know what’s going on.
“He comes into this match and we’ve all penciled him in for the starting line-up and all of a sudden, he’s not on the field against Wales and we’re thinking, ‘What’s going on here’?” Donovan said on FOX before the England match. “I don’t know what the reality is. 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.”
All questions will be answered Tuesday night in what could be the greatest game in American football history. Or the mystery may continue.
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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and football for Fox Sports. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @Lagenlitman.
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