Can Gio Reina save America against the Netherlands?

Editor’s note: Gio Reina makes the substitution after the USA gave up two first-half goals to the Netherlands. This is only the second time the American superstar has seen the field at the Qatar World Cup. Below is our story, posted on Friday, about the conversation surrounding Rina’s situation.

AL-RAYAN, Qatar – More than 20 million people in the United States watched the USA and England national teams during the World Cup group stage, and a percentage of them – those who know who Gio Reina is – are left wondering what the super talent is. The 20-year-old only saw the final seven minutes of a goalless draw.

Rina is one of the brightest young players not only in the Americans’ 26-man squad for the World Cup, but in world soccer. He made his UEFA Champions League debut with German side Borussia Dortmund at the age of seventeen. He is the son of former men’s national team captain Claudio Reyna and USWNT player Danielle Egan.

And his playing time – or lack thereof – was an irresistible story to fans and the media throughout the first round. Reyna made this only appearance during the Americans’ first three matches.

Asked by FOX Sports the day before Saturday’s Round of 16 meeting the Netherlands (10 a.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app), USA coach Greg Berhalter tried to explain why Reina was barely used.

“A lot of it comes down to timing and circumstances,” Berhalter said. “If you look at how matches develop, we get the lead and then we have to hold the lead later in the matches. The one game where we didn’t have that scenario, we actually put it in place to help get the win.”

How will the USMNT game play out against the Dutch?

How will the USMNT game play out against the Dutch?

This answer may or may not please a certain segment of the fanbase, who can’t or won’t understand why Reyna didn’t start. Although the winger/midfielder missed most of the World Cup qualifiers due to recurring hamstring injuries, he and Berhalter said he was healthy and available.

Last week, Berhalter said Reina’s inaction was “the coach’s decision” and dropped any suggestion that Reina’s hamstring problems were to blame.

Berhalter was an honest broker with the media during his four years running American Men, but he himself said some things are not for public consumption. This fueled speculation that there was something more to the story.

Is there a rift between the coach and the player? Last week, there were whispers that Rina had broken curfew. That didn’t happen, a NFL source told FOX Sports. The fact that Reina appeared against England supports this.

Conspiracy theories are everywhere, and football is not immune – especially at the World Cup. But as elsewhere, the presumption of artifice tends to unravel quickly under the microscope.

Reina primarily plays extensively for both Dortmund and the national team. He is by far the deepest position in the national team.

The main wingers for the United States are Christian Pulisic – the biggest star and most attacking player in the team – and Tim Weah, the only American other than Pulisic to have scored in a World Cup final.

[U.S. fans should believe – because this team certainly does]

Weah is also the only traditional winger on the list, an old-school torch player whose speed along the sideline knocks opposing defenders out of position. Barring injury, both will be in the squad for every match.

Brendan Aronson is ahead of Rina on the Berhalter depth chart, too. Aronson was Berhalter’s first substitute in all three group stage matches. One of the fittest players on the team, Aronson delivers relentless pressing and defensive work that Reyna simply can’t.

Which brings us to the next point: Rina may be healthy, but that doesn’t make him fit for 90 minutes. In fact, the last time Reyna started a game for club or country was in September 2021 – 15 months ago today.

This also makes Reyna less suitable for a centerfield role, as US captain Tyler Adams, Weston McKinney and Younis Musa were among Qatar’s best midfielders. There is no place for Rina there either.

Rina undoubtedly wants to play more. But any notion that Berhalter does not like him as a player is not supported by the facts. The coach especially raves about Rena’s ability, about his almost limitless ceiling. After all, he had known him his whole life.

Berhalter and Claudio Reina were high school classmates. Claudio, who starred at the University of Virginia, met Daniel while visiting Berhalter at the University of North Carolina, where they both played football. Berhalter’s eldest son, Sebastian, is close to Geo.

The Berhalters and Renas are more family than friends. Berhalter would certainly love nothing more than to play the younger Rina by the minute. The boring truth is that it doesn’t go any further.

Gio Reina’s World Cup Journey

Gio Reina's World Cup Journey

Gio Reina shares his path to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in My Journey, following in his father’s footsteps to become a professional footballer.

Berhalter’s mission is to win. He must do what is best for the team. And he knows better than anyone what he has in Reina, who could be a difference-maker off the bench against the Dutch.

“It’s just how we can use it in the most effective way,” Berhalter said of RINA. “We are looking for the right moment, but there is no doubt he can help this team.”

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Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Prior to joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cup tournaments. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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