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According to US coach Gregg Berhalter, the USMNT nearly sent a player home from the World Cup.

According to head coach Gregg Berhalter, the United States men’s national team was on the verge of releasing a player and sending him home during the World Cup.

Berhalter told an audience at the How Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York City just three days after the USMNT’s World Cup ended in a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands that he was close to telling an unnamed player to leave the squad’s Qatar base and return home.

The player in question, according to The Athletic, is Giovanni Reyna. During the USMNT’s group stage games, Reyna’s lack of playing time came up repeatedly. That became a bigger issue after former USMNT forward Eric Wynalda claimed there was a “rift” within the camp centred on Reyna.

The 20-year-old, who was said to be suffering from muscular “tightness” earlier in the tournament, only appeared in two World Cup matches, playing the final minutes against England before coming on at halftime in the USMNT’s round of 16 loss to the Netherlands.

“We had a player in the last World Cup who was clearly not living up to expectations both on and off the field. It stood out as one of 26 players. We sat around for hours as a staff debating what we were going to do with this player “Berhalter stated in an excerpt from the Charterworks newsletter. “We were about to book a plane ticket home because it was so bad.” (UPDATE: A spokesperson for US Soccer stated that Berhalter’s remarks at the summit were “explicitly off the record.”)

Berhalter stated that the coaching staff decided to have one more conversation with the player to demand no further “infractions” and an apology to the rest of the team as a condition for the player to stay on the team.

Berhalter stated that he prepared the USMNT’s internal leaders for the apology and credited the players for “taking ownership of that process.”

“‘OK, this guy is going to apologise to you as a group, to the entire team,’ I said. And, after he apologised, [team leaders] stood up one by one and said, ‘Listen, it hasn’t been good enough, You haven’t been meeting our expectations of a teammate, and we want to see change.'”

These details are broadly consistent with The Athletic’s accounting of events.

Berhalter did not reveal the identity of the player, but he has previously been willing to send USMNT players home. Weston McKennie was suspended for a game and told to leave a World Cup qualifying camp in September 2021 after allegedly violating the team’s Covid-19 protocols twice.

Berhalter stated that the player had no further issues during the World Cup, but that the issues were difficult enough that they were prepared to deal with the ensuing firestorm.

“Going back to your values as a coach is the best way to deal with situations. Because it is difficult to dismiss a player, “Berhalter elaborated. “There was going to be a huge uproar. You would have read about it for five days in a row. But we were ready to do it because he wasn’t meeting the group’s standards, and the group was ready to do it as well.”

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