At the end of a hell of a year of injury grief, Gio Reina, the most promising teenager in American football, hoped he could finally qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
He returned to Borussia Dortmund. distribution of assists in the Champions League. Last Friday, he showed flashes of his talent with the US men’s team against Japan, and again on Tuesday against Saudi Arabia.
But then, less than 30 minutes into the game with the Saudis, he kicked the ball out of bounds, gave way to a substitute, and went straight down the tunnel. He was followed by head coach Gregg Berhalter.
Berhalter said after the match that Reina “felt some tension” in his hamstring.
They are American football said the substitution was “precautionary”, but it nevertheless eclipsed USMNT’s last pre-World Cup friendly, a disappointing 0–0 draw with Saudi Arabia. It also caused concern – because the World Cup is less than two months away, and also because Reina’s hamstring has been the main obstacle between him and the top echelons of world football for the past 12-plus months.
Gio Reina’s injury history
Reina, the son of former USMNT captain Claudio, broke into Dortmund’s first team at 17. He quickly established himself as one of the brightest young talents in men’s football – not just in the US, but around the world. He established himself as a regular player for the national team in 2021 and has arguably the biggest victory of the Berhalter era to date, the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Final.
He entered the 2021-22 club season as an 18-year-old rising star. But a hamstring injury in a September World Cup qualifier sidelined him until February. Shortly after returning, another injury forced him to tear down the tunnel. This injury turned out to be less serious than feared. But two months later, in early April, the season ended due to a torn hamstring, which again ruined his mood.
This kept him out of USMNT training camp in May and June. He did not fully heal until the 2022-23 preseason. Dortmund brought him back to competitive play, and by the time he arrived at the USMNT September camp, he had played no more than 70 minutes.
But he appears to have recovered from his injury. He made his season debut on August 20. He played 68 minutes off the bench against Copenhagen in the Champions League and provided two assists.
A week later, he started against Manchester City. He started for the US against Japan too, and again against the Saudis.
But he was silent for 28 minutes and then replaced by Paul Arriola after 29.
Disappointing USMNT performance
With and without the Rhine, the US was toothless. It was not terrible and abnormal, like four days ago against Japan. But it was not dynamic. In the penalty area and around it was not dangerous. He only created 0.5 expected goals and for the sixth time in the last seven games against rivals in the World Cup, he did not score a single goal.
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the worst of the 32 teams that will be in Qatar this November. His entire team plays their club football in the Saudi Professional League. For most of Tuesday’s game, she looked pretty beaten, but the US couldn’t beat her.
Berhalter, speaking after the game, referred to “time problems”. He felt that his players were “trial”. They produced some promising attacks from the left, especially in the first half. But they weren’t sharp. Ricardo Pepi, who had the opportunity to win a place in the World Cup, did not jump at any chance.
Like Friday, there were gaps that would ease the anxiety. Yunus Musa, when he is healthy, will help develop the ball. Chris Richards could replace Aaron Long at center back and help with distribution. Tim Weah, who is likely to start ahead of Reina if both are healthy, will bring a directness that the US otherwise lacks.
But overall, the September window, which represented the USMNT’s last chance to work together on Qatar, went about as badly as it could possibly for a previously optimistic team.
“In general, there are not many players in this camp who have performed at their usual level,” admitted Berhalter. “And that’s just the way it is.”