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Back from lengthy injury ordeal, ‘special’ Gio Reyna poised to shine at his first World Cup


DOHA, Qatar — One of the most harrowing subplots for the U.S. men’s national team in the year leading up to the FIFA World Cup was the health of Gio Reyna, the teenage sensation and arguably the most gifted player in the USMNT setup.

After missing most of an entire year due to injury, Reyna returned to action in time to enjoy a very promising start to the current German Bundesliga season, showing off his impressive attacking qualities during a busy stretch where he played 10 matches for Borussia Dortmund in a one-month span, albeit with clear minutes restrictions.

As a result, Reyna has arrived at the World Cup healthy and ready to go. A development that may have come as a surprise to some grateful USMNT fans, but not to Reyna, who never wavered in his belief that he would overcome his injury issues to play in his first World Cup.

“I always knew I was going to be ready for this moment,” Reyna said on Wednesday. “I think it was always in the back of my head to make sure I was ready for the World Cup. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling strong. It’s obviously still managing a few things. It’s going to take time. But yeah, I’m ready to help the team here.”

Reyna has been eased back into action for both Dortmund and the USMNT over the past three months, and while he still has only managed to play a full 90 minutes just once in the past 14 months, Reyna’s recent run of starts for Dortmund have helped push his fitness to new levels ahead of a World Cup which will be played in hot conditions.

“It was definitely one of the most tiring phases after this last year,” Reyna said of his recent run of playing time. “I missed a lot of time and was lacking and needed to build up a lot of fitness. But at the same time, I think they were really, really helpful for me and I did build up a lot of fitness at the time and at the end of it I was able to get a lot of minutes and start a lot of the games for Dortmund, so it was really good for me in the end.”

Reyna is poised to play a prominent role in the USMNT attack after missing a majority of the World Cup qualifying cycle due to injuries. Despite his lack of involvement in qualifying, Reyna’s USMNT teammates know full well how much of a difference he can make when the World Cup group stage begins on Monday against Wales.

“For a young kid, he’s like a leader on the team,” Matt Turner said of Reyna. “I don’t think he knows that yet, but I can see it in him.”

“Gio’s special man,” USMNT midfielder Tim Weah said. “When he gets on the field he plays in such a way where it’s just lovely to watch and his technical abilities is amazing. He’s very young, and seeing him play at the level that he’s playing at is amazing.”

Weah and Reyna could actually wind up battling for playing time opposite Christian Pulisic on the right flank, though Reyna is capable of playing anywhere in the USMNT attack.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to play yet, but I feel comfortable in right wing, left wing or attacking midfield,” Reyna told SBI when asked about his preferred position. “Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward for me. If I’m in one of those positions, it’s just do my role and just help the team.”

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

Reyna was one of 25 USMNT players who took part in full training on Wednesday, with Sergiño Dest the only player on the World Cup roster not to participate fully (an absence deemed precautionary by U.S. Soccer).

“Today and yesterday were my first few days of fully training with the team.,” Reyna said. “Before that, I was kind of taking a few days off and resting because it was six weeks in a row of having a midweek game in Dortmund, so I definitely needed need a few days just to relax.

“We’re really starting to get into it now,” Reyna said. ” Gregg (Berhalter) has ideas that we’re trying to implement into training and we’re still going to make adjustments along the way, but we’re all confident that by the time Wales comes, we’ll be prepared.”

Berhalter stated on Monday that he believes Wales is being underrated by American media, but Reyna’s take on Monday’s opponent makes it clear the USMNT players aren’t part of the American contingent looking past the Welsh.

“They’ve qualified for the World Cup out of Europe, which is always so difficult, so the fact that they’re even here to start with is a huge compliment to them,” Reyna said of Wales, the team he made his USMNT debut against two years ago. “It shows the world what they can do.

“Obviously Gareth Bale is Gareth Bale. He needs no introduction,” Reyna said. “Obviously we need to be on him we need to limit a lot of things that take away what he likes to see. It’s not only him, there’s a lot of players that play in the Premier League. A real organized team that can sit back, with physical defenders, but on the counter they can be deadly with some some fast guys, too. We’re going to have to be at our at our best to get three points against them.”

Reyna, who turned 20 on Sunday, will be looking to make his World Cup debut 20 years after his father Claudio helped lead the USMNT to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, earning tournament Best XI honors that World Cup. The former USMNT captain appeared in three World Cups for the United States, and will be watching in the stadium as he and his son become the first father-son duo to play in World Cups for the USMNT.

“He told me it’s a moment not to take for granted, and just enjoy it,” Reyna said of the advice his father has given ahead of his first World Cup. “It’s a special moment and World Cups don’t come around too often, so you’ve got to enjoy the moment.


  1. the side question on this is in his absence weah was the star of the team or close to it. the coach has about 4 starting quality wings and restoring reyna as a wing gores someone else’s ox. i thought when we started pulisic and reyna wide we struggled to move the ball downfield with any pace, it became a 30 pass build. so i will be curious how a healthy reyna fits.

    • Agreed. Slow, secure and deliberate are grea too BUT lacks the dynamism of WEAH breaking at pace and discombobulating the defense.

  2. Interesting to note in this article that only Dest did not participate in full training. This implies McKennie must be back to full training. Dest will probably be ready soon enough if the holdout is precautionary.

    • the roster of 3 dedicated RBs (or LBs, depending what he’s thinking) suggests they are taking a flyer on whether dest is ready and have contingencies lined up if all he can do is jog on the side. i would like to think he’d have a full contact practice or two before you threw him on the field. but that would be judged as of sunday and not now. you do see american football players either out or doing conditioning that do the walkthrough and play the games. dest has been a fairly regular player, whether i like it or not, so that probably buys him some leniency. that plus it’s 5 subs. i am curious how this would have come out on a 23 man with 3 subs per game which would punish a bad health decision more harshly.

  3. Mexico played Sweden today and lost 2-1 . This is what I was talking about, we should have had a small friendly warm up game before Wales. I am going to have faith we will do good this WC, and make it out the group. Go USA!

    • Are you saying that you want USA to lose a friendly to a non-World Cup team days before their opening match??? :^)

      Mexico’s first game is a day later and I don’t really think it was a great idea for them. Maybe we’ll see how they do against Poland.

      There just is not time for this for USA. Most players have had 2-games a week for quite a while and just had long travel. The scrimmage was a managed situation where there could try to maximize organizational benefit and minimize wear and tear.

      IMHO USA playing a full friendly would have been a very poor choice.

      • Can you all harass and troll someone else’s comment? I get harassed in real life enough. I said what I said, don’t put words and lies in people’s mouth. You all seem to love attacking my opinions, because my real face is shown. Your the negative one saying we would lose the friendly. Your a troll and not a real USA men’s Nats fan! Please don’t ever respond to me.

    • if they got a scrimmage done yesterday that would be ok “tempo wise.” i wouldn’t be playing friday or saturday with a game monday if you want fresh legs. i wouldn’t be surprised if it was closed doors to hide from critique or try new tactics. personally i thought the way the camp and roster announcement were handled was to de-leverage potential bubble players and limit press chatter and critique about who got cut. so if we hid our game from view, perhaps same concept. you can’t moan about what you can’t see. it could in theory be to hide selection and tactics but he would have a week to try anything new unless we have been on some long term strategy of secretly training one way for qatar while showing up for friendlies looking the exact same and getting whooped by asian teams. so i see it as more likely to be media and fan management.

      plus i don’t think GB responds very strong to individual game performances. if he ran them out and it didn’t go well i don’t think he’d rapidly tinker with his plans. he likes who he likes playing how he wants. he adjusts slowly to glitches. so i am not sure what purpose a friendly serves for him other than fitness. vs the press and fans, we want to root and watch, but we also want an idea what to expect, and a basis to praise or be concerned. i think he wants that pressure off, whether him or the players.

      • They scrimmaged a Qatar Stars League team. I’m guessing it’s as much logistics and security as anything as to why it was closed. The US just requires a lot more moving parts when operating in that part of the world.

    • i thought the recent run of CONCACAF friendly results further confirmed my concern this was a weak cycle for the whole region (with implications for GB only finishing 3rd within it) relative to the world. but that’s more what i think a tv friendly might show than whether to hold one or put it on the air. personally i don’t think most NTs hide from view the general selection and way they intend to play, because they need the practice and want to test their theories before the real thing. they might hide their deadball plays or some ideas on how to work the ball downfield or go to net as a group. i feel like GB took some odd, insecure lessons from say, how landon was cut (we then did fine), and whether he or his team need pressure.

  4. These guys are going to be stomped on. This will be the saddest showing of any us soccer team and this is THE best group we have ever had and that is sad and disturbing and heads need to roll at US soccer for not correcting this before the world cup.

  5. Would be great if Reyna could play more central and boss the game from there. Needs to take big step forward from teen sensation to a player that has a massive influence with the ball!
    So much of the offense could go through him with chance creation and unlocking passes.
    Of course he needs his fitness and be able to close out a few matches for the USMNT

    • I believe that’s where his future kid. I like the idea of him playing as a RAM who moves centrally BUT I prefer him as a CAM who has the entire field available to him. His first touch (under pressure) to possess and move forward is one of his best qualities If successful he can unsettle/imbalance a defensive block pretty quickly … especially if Aaronson/Weah and Dest are overloading the right wing. He has one less option when he is starting attacks from wide as opposed to beginning centrally 25 yards from goal.

      Vamos America!
      Vamos Yanks!
      I believe!

      • Vacqui: on the previous thread about Iran ‘s 25. Allegedly there was some pressure to leave players home that were supportive of current protests. Not sure if those rumors are accurate or not.

      • JR

        We’ll never know the extent but clearly, political events in Iran have affected that team. Bringing back Queiroz helped calm things somewhat but I will be very curious about the Iran game.

        It’s badly placed for the USMNT being the last of the three. Poland was the last game in the 2002 WC and the USMNT lost that one. Maybe some of that was because they had gotten by the enormous games with Portugal and South Korea and relaxed with Poland.

        It’s a trap game, one the USMNT is supposed to easily win. And many on SBI for example certainly sees it that way.

        I don’t. If there is anything that might focus an Iranian team it would be playing the USMNT. Queiroz is a very good manager and certainly is a master of the “us against the world tactic”. We’ll soon find out how well he has unified his team.

        And what has been a hallmark of this Gregg team? They have a hard time with the cupcakes.

        Iran for me, will be the ultimate test of this team. I expect the USMNT to beat England because I think England will underestimate us.

        And if that happens I expect the USMNT will have a hard time gathering themselves to do what they need to do to beat Iran.

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