USMNT’s substitutions puzzling with Giovanni Reyna left on bench


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Much as the conversation online following a disappointing 1-1 draw for the United States in its World Cup opener against Wales centered on Giovanni Reyna’s lack of playing time, the bigger question for Gregg Berhalter came in just how long it took to start using his substitutions, period.

After a successful first half in which the U.S. spent most of the time playing in possession, it took all of 10 minutes into the second half to realize the equation had changed. Wales had abandoned the strategy of lying in wait in hopes of a counterattack in favor of playing further up the pitch. It took Berhalter too long to come up with a response, specifically to Kieffer Moore’s presence in front of net, and the Americans were lucky not to give up a goal in the air on a header that Moore sent over the bar in the 65th minute, or one from Ben Davies that forced a save from Matt Turner just before that.

Aerial presence on the back line was always going to be an issue on this team, but keeping Tim Ream on for the full 100 minutes after stoppage time felt like it was asking a lot. 

“What I’d say is Wales went very direct in the second half,” Berhalter said on the Fox broadcast, regarding what changed. “And they got a big team and they made it difficult. We managed it well but when they hit long balls and played for second balls, it becomes difficult.”

USMT coach Gregg Berhalter
AFP via Getty Images

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It was also disappointingly clear that Weston McKennie is not quite ready to play 90 minutes as he works his way back from a quad injury, and even keeping McKennie on for 66 minutes, as Berhalter did, felt like 10 too long.

Upon coming in, Brenden Aaronson helped shift the play back in favor of the Americans. It wasn’t enough in the end, but it helped bring energy and it opens the question of whether Aaronson should start against England.

Giovanni Reyna is expected to be available to play Friday against England.
Getty Images

Then there was Reyna, who — Kate Abdo clarified on the postgame show — is available to play on Friday. Berhalter indicated after the match that Reyna is still building up to fitness.

“They are trying to get him up to speed,” Berhalter told reporters. “They are guarding against tightness. In the training exercise against Al-Gharafa there was tightness. We’re taking precaution and building him up. He can play a big role, the question is when.”

Reyna stressed that he was ready to play if called upon on Monday.

“I feel really good. I feel great. I feel fine.” Reyna told reporters after the game. “[Berhalter] doesn’t have to tell me why he didn’t put me in or why he does. But I’m 100 percent. I’m good to go.”

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