U.S. Soccer is investigating a coach after a wild series of events
The situation involves men’s coach Gregg Berhalter, player Giovanni Reyna, Reyna’s parents, and a domestic dispute from the ‘90s.
The World Cup may be over, but a World Cup controversy involving U.S. men’s soccer has grown into a scandal of Shakespearian proportions. The drama originally centered around player Giovanni Reyna’s limited playing time during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and the situation quickly evolved to include his parents, Claudio and Danielle Reyna, and his coach, Gregg Berhalter. Now, the U.S. Soccer Federation is investigating Berhalter for allegations tied to a decades-old domestic violence dispute — a result of alleged potential blackmail from Gio’s parents over their son’s limited field time, The New York Times reported. This situation isn’t pretty, but when it comes to sports, playing dirty is nothing new.
“Just before the World Cup, Coach Berhalter told me that my role at the tournament would be very limited. I was [devastated],” Gio wrote in a Dec. 12 Instagram post. “I am also a very emotional person, and I fully acknowledge that I let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior for a few days after learning about my limited role.”
Gio’s post came shortly after Berhalter was quoted in a Dec. 11 Charter newsletter talking about “a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field.” The player Berhalter was referring to, according to a report from The Athletic, was said to be Gio. “We were ready to book a plane ticket home, that’s how extreme it was.”
Here’s where things get really sticky: Gio’s parents, Claudio and Danielle, also became involved on Dec. 11, when Danielle shared information about a 1991 incident between Berhalter and his wife with the U.S. Soccer Federation, per NPR. ESPN reported that “multiple sources” said that Claudio had threatened to share the info with U.S. Soccer officials, but Claudio denied ever threatening the coach.
The situation came to a head this week, with a series of statements from practically everyone involved. On Tuesday, Jan. 3, Berhalter himself revealed details of that decades-old incident, via a lengthy Twitter statement. The incident in question involved a 1991 domestic dispute between Berhalter and his wife of 25 years, Rosalind — who was roommates with Danielle at the University of North Carolina. “One night, when out drinking at a local bar, Rosalind and I had a heated argument that continued outside. It became physical and I kicked her in the legs," he said. "While the authorities were never involved in this matter, I voluntarily sought out counseling to help learn, grow and improve — one of the most valuable decisions that I ever made. To this day, that type of behavior has never been repeated.” The statement was signed by both Berhalter and Rosalind.
Berhalter also explained how “an individual contacted U.S. Soccer during the most recent World Cup saying they had information about me that would ‘take me down’ – an apparent effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer.” After Danielle’s statement admitting to being the individual who contacted U.S. Soccer, it’s pretty clear Berhalter seems to be referring to her.
Almost immediately after Berhalter tweeted, U.S. Soccer did as well, announcing that they had launched an independent investigation following the Dec. 11 revelations. During that investigation, they stated, the organization “learned about potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization” and expanded the investigation to include all of the allegations.
One day later, Danielle admitted to contacting an official about Berhalter. “To set the record straight, I did call (U.S. Soccer sporting director) Earnie Stewart on December 11, just after the news broke that Gregg had made negative statements about my son Gio at a leadership conference,” she said in a Jan. 4 statement to The Athletic. “I was absolutely outraged and devastated that Gio had been put in such a terrible position, and that I felt very personally betrayed by the actions of someone my family had considered a friend for decades.”
As if that all wasn’t messy enough, U.S. Soccer has also been in the midst of its post-World Cup review and year-end contract negotiations — and until the investigation is finished, Berhalter is still a candidate to be rehired.