Gio Reyna, amid USMNT drama, scores defiant goal in first game back from World Cup

DORTMUND, GERMANY - JANUARY 22: Giovanni Reyna of Borussia Dortmund celebrates after scoring the team's fourth goal during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Augsburg at Signal Iduna Park on January 22, 2023 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Gio Reyna celebrates after scoring a stunning game-winning goal for Borussia Dortmund in their first game since the World Cup. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

For well over a month, Gio Reyna has been in the eye of an American soccer storm. He had to address his immature behavior at the 2022 World Cup, then stand by, powerless, as his helicopter parents turned a standard soccer saga into a sad, ugly, acrimonious soap opera.

There was only one thing he could do to interrupt the drama, to momentarily shift the public's attention — and on Sunday, he did it.

For a month and a half, with the German Bundesliga on winter break, he could not respond on a soccer field. On Sunday, in Borussia Dortmund's first game back from break, Reyna came off the bench to score a world-class game-winner.

After spanking a half-volley past Augsburg keeper Rafal Gikiewicz, to give Dortmund a 4-3 lead, Reyna pranced toward the corner flag and chomped his fingers together, in a talking motion, an inescapable reference to all the chatter around him.

He also brought a finger to his lips, in a shushing motion.

He cupped a hand to his ear.

Then he stuck his pointer fingers in both ears.

Ever since Dec. 3, Reyna had been the center of attention for everything but his ludicrous talent. He had reportedly and admittedly shown an alarming lack of effort in training leading up to and during the World Cup group stage, during which he ultimately played only eight minutes. Then, after the U.S. men's national team's elimination, head coach Gregg Berhalter said at a leadership conference that he almost sent an unnamed player home from Qatar. That player, it soon emerged, was Reyna.

On Dec. 11, the day those comments were mistakenly published, Reyna's parents, Danielle and Claudio, went to U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, Berhalter's boss, and informed Stewart of a early 1990s incident involving Berhalter and his now-wife, Rosalind. Stewart felt obligated to report it. U.S. Soccer launched an investigation, which compelled Gregg and Rosalind to speak publicly about the incident for the first time.

In an early January statement, Gregg detailed how, when they were teenage college students, he kicked Rosalind after an argument at a North Carolina bar. The couple have since reconciled and married; Rosalind had forgiven Gregg; the Reynas, some 31 years later, unearthed Rosalind's trauma.

It's unclear whether Gio Reyna had any knowledge of or role in his parents' actions. He addressed his World Cup behavior in a Dec. 12 statement, but has not spoken publicly since.

He spoke, instead, at the Signal Iduna Park on Sunday, just eight minutes into his first opportunity to do so.

Reyna showed why he'll be a pivotal player for the USMNT going forward, whether or not Berhalter remains the coach. He is still only 20. He is arguably the most technically gifted player the U.S. has ever produced. He will, surely, continue to let those gifts do the talking.