Jan. 5—The saga of Gregg Berhalter and the U.S. men's national team took another wild plot twist on Wednesday when multiple outlets revealed who went to U.S. Soccer over Berhalter's past.
Claudio and Danielle Reyna, the parents of U.S. World Cup player Gio Reyna and former U.S. national team stalwarts in their own right, admitted that they were behind it all.
ESPN reported that Claudio "sent multiple messages to U.S. Soccer executives during the World Cup," when Gio wasn't playing as much as was expected. He subsequently confirmed this to The Athletic, and named sporting director Earnie Stewart and men's national team general manager Brian McBride as the recipients.
"While in Qatar, I shared my frustrations about my son's World Cup experience with a number of close friends, Earnie and Brian McBride among them," Claudio said in a statement. "However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so."
ESPN reported that multiple sources indicated that there were in fact specific threats to disclose the information that was eventually revealed to the USSF executives, but Reyna denied this.
One of the U.S. men's team all-time legends, Claudio played 112 times for his country and made U.S. World Cup teams from 1994-2006. He is now the sporting director at Austin FC. A request for comment from Austin's head of PR has not yet been returned.
Fox Sports and The Athletic published a statement from Danielle in which she admitted to calling Stewart after Berhalter said last month — at an event that was supposed to be off the record, but was quickly leaked — that he nearly sent a player home from Qatar before the World Cup due to a lack of effort in practice. Though Berhalter didn't name the player, multiple reports soon made it clear that it was Gio Reyna. A few days later, Reyna apologized publicly on social media. Reports said he had already apologized to the team privately in Qatar.
"I have known Earnie for years and consider him to be a close friend," Danielle Reyna said. "I wanted to let him know that 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 part of that conversation, I told Earnie that I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age."
Before all of this exploded, the Berhalters and Reynas had close ties for decades. Gregg and Claudio were youth and high school soccer teammates in northern New Jersey, then were on the national team together for over a decade — including at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Claudio was even the best man at Gregg's wedding to Rosalind Santana (now Rosalind Berhalter) 25 years ago.
Stewart was also on the '94, '98, and '02 World Cup teams, and McBride was on the '98, '02 and '06 squads.
On Tuesday, the Berhalters revealed in a statement that Gregg committed an act of domestic violence against Rosalind when they were freshmen at the University of North Carolina and had been dating for a few months. They separated, then reunited seven months later, eventually married, and have remained married ever since.
Decades of relationships
U.S. Soccer said in a concurrent statement that it first learned of the allegations on Dec. 11, the day the pieces came together about Berhalter's remarks on Gio Reyna. The governing body hired an outside law firm to run an investigation that has not yet concluded.
"Through this process, U.S. Soccer has learned about potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization," the governing body's statement said. "We take such behavior seriously and have expanded our investigation to include those allegations. We appreciate Gregg and Rosalind coming forward to speak openly about this incident."
Rosalind Berhalter was a college teammate of Danielle Reyna at North Carolina from 1991-94, and the two women were roommates for a time.
"Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question," Reyna said in her statement. "Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. It took a long time for me to forgive and accept Gregg afterward, but I worked hard to give him grace, and ultimately made both of them and their kids a huge part of my family's life. I would have wanted and expected him to give the same grace to Gio. This is why the current situation is so very hurtful and hard."
Reyna admitted in her statement that she believed her conversation with Stewart "would remain in confidence, and it didn't occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation." But she added, "I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared."
She concluded: "I want to be very clear that I did not ask for Gregg to be fired, I did not make any threats, and I don't know anything about any blackmail attempts, nor have I ever had any discussions about anyone else on Gregg's staff — I don't know any of the other coaches. I did not communicate with anyone in U.S. Soccer about this matter before Dec. 11, and no one else in my family has made any statements to U.S. Soccer regarding Gregg's past at all. I'm sorry that this information became public, and I regret that I played a role in something that could reopen wounds from the past."
Claudio added in his statement: "I support my wife, Danielle, and her statement. I, too, was upset by Gregg's comments about Gio after the U.S. was out of the World Cup, and I also appealed to Earnie Stewart on Dec. 11 asking him to prevent any additional comments."
Berhalter's contract as U.S. manager expired at the end of 2022. No decision has yet been made about who will be his full-time successor. Anthony Hudson, one of his assistants, will oversee the senior men's team's January training camp and games.
U.S. Soccer executives react
In a news conference late Wednesday afternoon, Stewart dodged multiple questions about how hard it has hit him to watch two of his former teammates fight in public. He also didn't answer directly when asked if he ever told the Reyna parents to stop contacting him.
But he did indicate Gio Reyna's national team future will not be affected by the scandal.
"Every player that has a U.S. passport will be eligible to play for our U.S. national teams," Stewart said. "So I don't see any problems moving forward in any kind of regards to any player."
When U.S. Soccer president Cindy Cone was asked how long the investigation will go on for, she said: "We don't know, because it is completely independent and we want them to follow the facts wherever they need. But obviously we need to speed this along so that we can name who is going to be the head coach of the men's national team and start gearing up for World Cup '26. So we want to move quickly, but not rush."
When U.S. Soccer CEO JT Batson was asked if he'd be comfortable with Berhalter continuing, he said: "I don't feel comfortable answering that question, given all of the details with regards to the investigation underway. ... Gregg is one of the candidates being considered as a part of our full review, and we have agreed that we need to let the investigation play out before we can make any determinations there."
Batson was also asked how U.S. Soccer didn't know of the Berhalter incident until now, since when Berhalter was hired, his brother Jay was the governing body's chief commercial officer.
"None of our current leadership was aware of this," Batson answered, adding that it was a matter that the investigation "will, I'm sure, try to understand."
Though he didn't elaborate on how broadly he defined "current leadership," this much is known: U.S. Soccer had a different president (Carlos Cordeiro) and CEO (Dan Flynn) when Berhalter was hired in December 2018.
Cone was still two months away from becoming the USSF's vice president at that point, and a year and a half from becoming president. Batson became CEO in late September, after Will Wilson stepped down. Wilson had held the role since March 2020, early in Cone's tenure. Flynn departed in September 2019.
Stewart, however, was directly involved in hiring Gregg Berhalter as the U.S. men's team's general manager at the time. Back then, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson told The Inquirer that Stewart "kept Jay Berhalter out" of the process of hiring Gregg. But the family tie has hung in the air ever since, in part because Jay Berhalter was on the committee that hired Stewart away from the Union in the summer of 2018.
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