Time to let Gio do the talking! USMNT callup gives Reyna the chance to bring an end to soccer's most shameful soap opera
Since the moment the World Cup ended, American soccer hasn't been able to stop talking about Gio Reyna.
For good reason, to be fair. The Borussia Dortmund star has been at the center of a controversy unlike anything we've ever seen.
Betrayal, backstabbing, blackmail, decades-old friendships coming to an end... for the past few months, the U.S. men's national team has been the sport's greatest soap opera.
However, while the world has been unable to stop talking about him, Reyna, to his credit, has remained largely quiet. Save for a statement right after the World Cup, Reyna really hasn't said much.
His parents have said plenty, helping create this mess in the first place. Gregg Berhalter has too, as his comments about Reyna after the World Cup ignited the bomb that came shortly after.
Ex-USMNT stars have alsohad plenty to say while Christian Pulisic, most notably, spoke up as well, saying he's looking forward to ending this "childish" mess once and for all.
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Surely, no one wants this to end more than Reyna, the talented young star who has seen his career suddenly be put on the back-burner.
Reyna is now very much in the limelight, for many reasons outside his control, heading into this week as he rejoins the national team for the first time since this all started.
In some ways, a return to the USMNT may just be the catharsis the 20-year-old star needs to put this behind him once and for all.
He's stepped up, at times, for Dortmund but this call-up to the national team proves that, no matter what has happened, Reyna very much remains a part of this team's present and future.
And that's what makes these upcoming games so important for Reyna, who will get his chance to truly make a statement to the USMNT audience that has discussed and dissected his life so much ever since he left Qatar.
Much has changed since then, of course.
Berhalter, his former coach, is in limbo after not seeing his contract renewed due to revelations made by his parents, USMNT legend Claudio and ex-USWNT defender Danielle, after their son was benched during the World Cup and subsequently called out for his attitude in response to that benching.
An investigation into those revelations, centered around a domestic violence incident in the early 90s, revealed years of meddling by the Reyna family, with Claudio reaching out to U.S. Soccer about everything from playing time to travel arrangements to, worst of all, the gender of referees in charge of his son's games.
That said, while the adults in the room bickered through statements, interviews and press releases from legal teams, Reyna himself has kept his head down for the most part.
He apologized initially back in December for his attitude, promising to learn from what was the biggest setback of his international career.
Now, he's back, ready to resume that international career, and despite cries from some to punish Reyna for his parents' meddling, USMNT interim boss Anthony Hudson says there was never any thought of leaving the talented young winger out.
"We see it as separate from Gio," Hudson said, "even though he's impacted by it... He's in a good place. He's determined to come back in and do well and help the team."
"Honestly, I never felt any sort of resistance to him coming back," Hudson added.
That includes from teammates, many of whom Hudson has met and spoken with, and Reyna himself, who Hudson says is more than ready to return.
You could understand if Reyna were to feel a bit uneasy because this process will certainly be awkward.
He rejoins the national team just days after it emerged that his parents had routinely campaigned to U.S. Soccer for preferential treatment. That, in addition to Berhalter's claims, and Reyna's admission, that the young winger had an attitude problem in Qatar does little to paint the winger in a good light.
An investigation into the behaviour of the family of USMNT star Gio Reyna revealed a long-term campaign of pressure to give him advantages 😳— GOAL News (@GoalNews) March 13, 2023
Reyna, though, should be forgiven for his part in all of this, even by those who cannot do the same for Berhalter or his parents.
At the World Cup, he let his emotions get the best of him, as many young people do. He was punished, apologized and learned a lesson, admitting publicly that he needed to be a better teammate in moments like that.
It was a very human response from a player that is still a very young kid that, in that moment, showed some maturity.
Everything that's happened since? That's not on him. His parents meddling will be attached to him, of course, but it wasn't Reyna making those calls or sending those texts.
He is, until proven otherwise, a bystander in this, someone that may have benefitted from his parents' actions, but probably wasn't driving them.
The hope is that, at some point, the public will once again be able to separate Reyna, the player, from Reyna, the son. Because the player is that damn good.
That will be a process, for sure, as this will all be fresh in the mind of fans until it isn't anymore. Maybe a goal or two changes things, maybe an interview or an Instagram post.
For now, it's something Reyna will have to deal with as he will have to earn back the respect his parents lost him piece by piece.
The best way to do that? Performing in a national team shirt, something he gets the chance to do starting in the Nations League.
To begin the process of bringing Reyna back, Hudson went out to Germany as part of his recent European trip, meeting with Reyna personally to discuss what a return to the national team would look like.
"Obviously, this is a young guy who has been through a lot," Hudson said. "The conversations initially were, first of all, being a young man overseas, having gone through all of this. The conversation, or the objective, first of all, was just to see how he was on a human level.
"Without going into details of our conversation, I think for anyone to go through that is going to be a challenge, but he seems to be in a good place. I see that he is firmly focused on his soccer, his playing and coming back into camp.
"Speaking to him this week, there was no hesitation from him about coming in. He's determined to come in and do well.
"He's a good guy, a talented player and, as far as I'm concerned, our conversations have been good and he's looking forward to coming back in."
And the USMNT should look forward to having him. Reyna, no matter what you think about the last few months, is a game-changer.
He's been a game-changer for Dortmund and a game-changer for the national team and, despite everything that's gone on, it would be a good bet to say he'll continue to be one for the next decade at least.
It's weird to say, but that next decade kind of begins in this Nations League window. They aren't the most important games by any stretch, especially so early in the cycle.
But they may just be the games where Reyna takes control of a narrative that spun totally out of control by reminding everyone of who he is and what he can do.