U.S. Soccer: Berhalter eligible to coach USMNT
Out-of-contract United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter can contend for the open USMNT’s coaching job, U.S. Soccer said on Monday following an investigation into allegations of domestic violence against him.
After an independent investigation, the U.S. Soccer Federation found that both Berhalter and his wife, Rosalind, accurately portrayed the nature of a 1992 domestic incident as well as its aftermath, and thus Berhalter was free to be hired for a coaching role in the future. Berhalter’s contract expired on Dec. 31, 2022.
The investigation also found a need for U.S. Soccer to “revisit U.S. Soccer’s policies concerning appropriate parental conduct and communications.”
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The report detailed how Danielle and Claudio Reyna attempted to influence U.S. Soccer officials’ decisions related to their son, U.S. international Giovanni Reyna, and their veiled threats to publicly disclose the domestic violence incident involving Berhalter in retaliation for Berhalter’s treatment of Gio. One interview described Claudio Reyna’s outreach over Gio Reyna’s treatment as “inappropriate,” “bullying” and “mean-spirited.”
While the conclusion was that the Reynas’ behavior didn’t rise to the level of blackmail or extortion, nor did it violate U.S. Soccer policies, U.S. Soccer said that a new policy is being drafted to prevent such parent/coach communication in the future.
“Rosalind and I respect the process that U.S. soccer went through. We are grateful that it is concluded and look forward to what’s next,” Berhalter said in a statement to ESPN.
Dan Segal, an attorney representing the Reynas including Gio, issued a statement on behalf of the family on Monday night.
“Claudio and Danielle acknowledge that they have said and done things in the heat of the moment that they regret, particularly the statement that triggered the US Soccer investigation,” the statement read. “Gio acknowledges that, like countless players before, he showed too much disappointment when not selected to play at the World Cup.
“That is only part of the story here, but the only side of the story that the investigators chose to tell. It is disheartening and grossly unfair to see the family turned into one-dimensional caricatures to progress a narrative that benefits others. Hopefully, as a US Soccer community we are better than that.”
During the course of the investigation, both Gregg and Rosalind Berhalter were interviewed about the January 1992 incident of domestic violence that took place outside of a bar called Players while the two were attending the University of North Carolina. Both Berhalters recounted how an argument between the two was taken outside the bar, at which point Rosalind Berhalter hit Gregg Berhalter in the face. Gregg Berhalter responded by pushing Rosalind to the ground and kicking her twice before a passerby intervened and tackled Gregg Berhalter.
No police report was filed over the incident, which in part led investigators to conclude that Gregg Berhalter “didn’t improperly withhold the fact of the 1992 Incident, or any other information, from U.S. Soccer at any time.”
In an interview with investigators, Danielle Reyna said that Gregg Berhalter “beat the s— out of” Rosalind Berhalter, though she admitted she hadn’t witnessed the incident.
Investigators determined that Gregg Berhalter took responsibility for his actions by reporting the incident to his coach, and engaging in counseling. He and Rosalind Berhalter eventually reconciled, got married, and now have four children.
The report read: “Our interview and interactions with Mr. Berhalter during this Investigation…demonstrate that he acknowledges his culpability and his need to be accountable for his actions in January 1992. More critically, perhaps, the witnesses we interviewed confirmed that Mr. Berhalter acknowledged his culpability and his need to be accountable the day after the incident occurred in 1992.
“The witnesses further confirmed that Mr. Berhalter immediately self-reported the assault to his head coach at UNC the day after the 1992 Incident occurred, and, of his own accord, took steps to prevent it from happening again. As noted, we found no evidence to suggest that Mr. Berhalter engaged in similar behavior again.”
The investigation also found that the 1992 incident “does not prevent an employer from employing Mr. Berhalter. Given that the 1992 Incident occurred approximately 31 years ago, and given the lack of information or any evidence contradicting witness accounts or suggesting any similar conduct after that 1992 Incident, there is no basis to conclude that employing Mr. Berhalter would create legal risks for an organization.”
Danielle Reyna revealed the incident of domestic violence during a phone call with USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart on Dec. 11, 2022. Stewart was then compelled by USSF policy to report incident to the federation’s lawyers.
Danielle Reyna divulged the incident after Gio Reyna had received scant playing time at the World Cup, and following a speech that Berhalter gave in which he alluded to a player that he had almost sent home for disciplinary reasons. That player was later identified as Gio Reyna.
Throughout the World Cup, both Claudio and Danielle Reyna told USSF officials that they had information on Berhalter that would prevent him from being rehired.
According to the report, Danielle Reyna told a U.S. Soccer staffer the day after the World Cup match against Wales: “Once this tournament is over, I can make one phone call and give one interview, and his cool sneakers and bounce passes will be gone.”
Claudio Reyna told then-USSF GM Brian McBride: “You guys don’t even know what we know about Gregg.”
The report reads: “The information was disclosed at a time when it would be expected to discourage or otherwise influence the organization from offering a contract extension to Mr. Berhalter. Mr. Stewart explained during the Investigation that he believed the Reynas made this disclosure to him so that U.S. Soccer would not hire Mr. Berhalter for another term.”
The Reynas and the Berhalters had been longtime friends, but issues over Gio Reyna’s playing time also resulted in a fraying of the relationship.
This included the Reynas asking that they return to their hotel with the rest of the players’ friends and family on a bus that didn’t include the Berhalters.
Gregg Berhalter told investigators: “There were 150 people in the Friends and Family program at this year’s World Cup. All were having a great time — except for five people who were absolutely miserable. Those five were cursing, acting horribly. It was the Reynas.”
The report included details of how this wasn’t the first time that the Reynas had complained about Gio’s treatment, including during his days representing the U.S. at the 2019 U-17 World Cup.
According to the report, one person interviewed described several incidents in which Mr. Reyna contacted U.S. Soccer officials to make complaints regarding his sons.
The person characterized Mr. Reyna’s historical outreach as “inappropriate,” “bullying” and “mean-spirited.”
The person interviewed explained that whenever they received text messages from Mr. Reyna, he would forward them to U.S. Soccer leadership.
The interviewee added that sometimes other U.S. Soccer officials were copied on Mr. Reyna’s text messages, and said it would be typical for Mr. Reyna to send a text message or email “in the heat of the moment” and then follow up with a call to vent about his complaint.