American Football Investigating Gregg Berhalter After Gio Reyna’s Mother’s Report

Just weeks after a World Cup performance seen by many as a positive step forward for a group of promising players, the United States men’s soccer team has been shrouded in a soap opera story involving its head coach. , a former popular player, a current player (who happens to be the son of the former popular player) and a complex network of friendships and family ties.

The drama – the residue of a decades-old incident outside a college bar – led to an investigation by the United States Soccer Federation, threatened coach Gregg Berhalter’s hold on his job as he negotiated a new contract, and potentially damaged the reputation of the player, Gio Reyna, and his parents, after his mother first reported the bar incident to Berhalter bosses.

Tuesday afternoon, Berhalter released a lengthy statement on Twitterrevealing that “an individual” (whom he did not name) had contacted the federation during the World Cup claiming to have information that could compel the team to terminate his employment.

Berhalter told the story instead, writing that he kicked his current wife, Rosalind, in the legs during an alcohol-fueled fight in 1991 when he was 18. and that the two had just started dating when they were college students.

“The lessons learned from that night more than three decades ago became the foundation for a relationship of love, devotion and support, which we honored and celebrated with our 25th wedding anniversary this past weekend.” , he said in the statement.

A few minutes later, US Soccer sent its own, vague statementsaying he had hired a law firm, Alston & Bird LLP, to investigate the allegations against Berhalter (which he did not specify) after learning about them on December 11, just over a week after the team was eliminated from the World Cup in Qatar.

US Soccer also said in its statement on Tuesday that the investigation separately revealed “potential inappropriate behavior toward several members of our staff by people outside of our organization.” The organization declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

The plot only got more bizarre on Wednesday afternoon, when the parents of Gio Reyna, a 20-year-old winger for Team USA, admitted they were the ones who contacted the team’s sporting director , Earnie Stewart, on December 11 with information about the incident in Berhalter’s past.

Reyna’s father, Claudio, is a former captain of the USA men’s team and widely regarded as one of the greatest players in its history. Her mother, Danielle, played six times for the United States Women’s National Team in the early 1990s.

The Reynas’ involvement, which was first reported on Wednesday by ESPN, was all the more intriguing due to the families’ close relationship, who are known to be close friends. Berhalter and Claudio Reyna played soccer together as kids in New Jersey, playing for a club team coached by Claudio’s father and the St. Benedict’s High School team in Newark. The two were teammates at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and Reyna even witnessed Berhalter’s wedding, according to his biography on the US National Soccer Team Players Association website.

Rosalind Berhalter and Danielle Reyna were roommates and football teammates at the University of North Carolina.

In a statement Wednesday, Danielle Reyna said she was the one who initially contacted Stewart on Dec. 11 about the bar incident, calling her actions an effort to protect her son. She said she was “outraged and devastated” after Gregg Berhalter was quoted that day at a leadership conference about a problematic team player who was nearly sent home during the World Cup for his bad attitude. Berhalter didn’t name the player, but it was widely and correctly assumed to be Reyna, who featured far less in the competition than expected.

Reyna, one of the team’s most promising players, issued a statement on December 12, the day after Berhalter’s comments were published, admitting he reacted badly when told he would have limited playing time in Qatar and expressing his disappointment that his coach had made the situation public.

In her statement Wednesday, Danielle Reyna said Berhalter’s descriptions of the bar incident “significantly understate the abuse on the night in question,” although she did not provide further details. She added that she had reached out to longtime friend Stewart “in confidence” and did not expect her comments to trigger an investigation. And she said she didn’t ask for Berhalter’s dismissal.

“Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed,” Danielle Reyna said of the incident. “It took me a long time to forgive and accept Gregg afterwards, but I worked hard to give him the grace and eventually they made them and their children a big part of Gregg’s life. my family. I would have wanted and expected him to grant the same grace to Gio. That is why the current situation is so painful and difficult.

Claudio Reyna, in a statement, admitted that he separately expressed his frustration during the tournament over his son’s playing time to Stewart and general manager Brian McBride, whom he called friends.

“However, at no time did I threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so,” he said.

US Soccer didn’t reveal much at a Wednesday night press conference beyond a desire for the investigation to be conducted thoroughly and expeditiously.

The current investigation follows a separate independent investigation last fall that found leaders at all levels of women’s soccer in America failed to act on years of player reports of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse. by coaches.

“Obviously it’s not a positive time for football in this country and the men’s national team, and it’s a difficult time for the families involved, and I just hope we can find a solution to this quickly and moving forward with our men’s team as well as American football in general,” said President of American Football Cindy Parlow Cone.

Adding to the host of developments on Wednesday, the federation announced that Berhalter would not be head coach during the team’s annual training camp in January. Anthony Hudson would fill that role, the team said.

Berhalter’s contract ended on December 31 and the team suggested the difficult timing of the World Cup, coming in the fall instead of its traditional summer window, hadn’t left enough time for him. organization to carry out a regular performance evaluation, separate from the outside. investigation, to determine whether Berhalter should remain in the role. The investigation, and the complex soap opera that emerged on Wednesday, only complicated matters.

nytimes sport

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