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GioGate becomes the USMNT’s World Cup soap opera

This was just a lot.

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Netherlands v USA: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

There was a lot that happened this past weekend outside of the World Cup, and one of those major stories was the soap opera that was the United States Men’s National Team. Head coach Gregg Berhalter’s comments at a conference that were released over the weekend opened up an internet debate over one of the USMNT’s most promising young players.

The drama began when Gregg Berhalter referenced the situation in the general sense while at a leadership conference in New York. The comments, which U.S. Soccer said was supposed to be “explicitly off the record,” were posted in a Charter newsletter over the weekend. The comments apparently were not intended to be published, but they were in full. Berhalter’s comments in full:

That, of course, prompted the internet to inquire about who it was that Berhalter was referring to, since the USMNT’s World Cup run had just ended a few days prior with the loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16. The internet soon had its answer:

That set off the bonfire, and while many did not believe the initial reports, soon after came an article by The Athletic, which confirmed that Gio Reyna was the source of Berhalter’s comments. That prompted even further allegations from others, with Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports saying that there was a vote to send Gio Reyna home among the players, with the vote being 13 to 12. He further alleged that Gio had a history of similarly lazy behavior with his club at Borussia Dortmund.

At that point, the bonfire was now a burn-it-all-down type of blaze, with the internet taking sides between the head coach and the player. Reyna’s agent, Dan Segal, released a statement to The Athletic about Gio’s implied disciplinary issues while on the team:

“Gio obviously did not have the experience anyone hoped for at the World Cup. 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.”

Gio Reyna, of course, was a topic of discussion throughout the World Cup for USMNT fans, starting when he failed to appear against Wales in the team’s opening match. After the match, Gregg Berhalter said that the 20-year-old had some “muscle tightness” and they held him out as a result. A few minutes later, Reyna told reporters, “I felt good, I felt ready to go,” Reyna said. “But it was just his decision.”

A few minutes later, Reyna told reporters in the mixed zone that he was fully healthy. “I felt good, I felt ready to go,” Reyna said. “But it was just his decision.” It started to blow up the day of the England match, when former USMNT forward Eric Wynalda spoke on Reyna’s lack of playing time in a Twitter Spaces with the LA Times. In that, Wynalda alleged that there was team drama over Berhalter’s decision not to play Gio. Wynalda also said that Berhalter lied about the injury, and that he had received his information from former teammate Claudio Reyna, who is Gio’s father.

“With Gio Reyna out of the lineup right now, which has been a massive controversy within the team — even his own teammates are wanting him on the field and it seems to be (causing) internal strife with the (team) and manager Gregg Berhalter,” Wynalda said. “I don’t know how much I should comment on that, but I’ve been trying to console Gio’s father, Claudio, for the last couple of hours, well, the last couple of days with everything that’s been going on. He was fit to play, Berhalter did lie to the media and say that it was an injury, ask the player to kind of go along with that story, which caused a rift between the two of them and now he’s on the bench which is really unfortunate. The situation should have been handled very differently.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that the Berhalters and Reynas have been best family friends for a long time. Gregg and Claudio were high school teammates at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey. Danielle Reyna, who played on the USWNT and is Gio’s mom, and Gregg’s wife Rosalind were college roommates, and Gregg has been a part of Gio’s life since the beginning. There were lots of rumors that relations between the families have been strained in the aftermath of this situation.

On Monday, Gio issued his own response, confirming that he “let (his) emotions get the best of him” and affect his performance. However, he also expressed “surprise” that the information was leaked by U.S. Soccer staff.

So, after all that, it’s unclear what the state of the USMNT is or will be down the road. Berhalter is in the final couple weeks of his contract, and while U.S. Soccer had reportedly been set to open preliminary contract extension talks with Berhalter, the coach was also considering other options. Who knows how this drama will affect the decision on whether Berhalter returns as USMNT head coach for the next cycle. It also remains to be seen whether this will affect Gio Reyna’s future status with the team. He’s still one of the most promising athletes in the player pool, and also has time to make this a moment that he can learn and grow from as the team moves forward.

However, would the return of Berhalter cause further issue with Reyna, or even the rest of the team? It was already reported after the USMNT’s exit from the World Cup that while some players would welcome the return of the 49-year-old coach, Berhalter may face a “major challenge” in continuing to command respect from the group at large should he return for another cycle. His comments at the leadership conference becoming public may affect that locker room dynamic.

There it is. It’s a messy drama, so hit the comments and discuss it all.