On Tuesday, men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter issued a statement written by himself and his wife, Rosalind, detailing a domestic incident in which Berhalter kicked Rosalind in the legs during an argument 31 years ago while the pair were dating as students at the University of North Carolina. Berhalter issued this statement, he said, because an “individual contacted U.S. Soccer” during the most recent World Cup saying “they had information about me that would ‘take me down’” in “an effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer.”
On Wednesday, the other shoe dropped: the informant was Danielle Reyna, mother of young U.S. star Giovanni, while her husband, Austin FC sporting director and former U.S. men’s national team captain Claudio, had also spoken with U.S. Soccer leadership. This is according to reporting by The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio and other outlets, confirmed by the couples’ own statements on Wednesday.
U.S. Soccer also announced its own investigation into the incident referenced by Berhalter, as well as “inappropriate behavior” towards U.S. Soccer staff by people from outside the organization.
There’s a lot to unpack about all of the subtext with this saga. That said, here’s a timeline of relevant events which led to Wednesday’s bombshell.
1991/1992: Tuesday’s statement posted to Gregg Berhalter’s Twitter account details an incident which took place when Gregg and Rosalind were 18 years old and students at the University of North Carolina. The statement says that four months after the pair started dating in the fall of 1991, they had an argument “while out drinking at a local bar.” The “heated argument continued outside” Berhalter wrote. “It became physical and I kicked her in the legs.”
“There are zero excuses for my actions that night; it was a shameful moment and one that I regret to this day. At that time, I immediately apologized to Rosalind, but understandably, she wanted nothing to do with me.”
The statement goes on to say that both Gregg and Rosalind told their families about the incident and that the authorities were never involved. At the time, Rosalind and Danielle Reyna were roommates and teammates at UNC.
Gregg said he “voluntarily sought out counseling to help learn, grow and improve — one of the most valuable decisions I ever made. To this day, that type of behavior has never been repeated.”
2002: Gregg Berhalter and Claudio Reyna were among the 23 players who represented the United States at the 2002 World Cup and led the team to a quarterfinal performance, its best showing since 1930. The pair had also grown up together in New Jersey, playing youth soccer together and attending St. Benedict’s Prep together starting with their sophomore years.
December 2018: Over a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, U.S. Soccer appointed Gregg Berhalter as the head coach of the men’s national team. The hiring process was much criticized, between his brother Jay’s role in the procedure as then-U.S. Soccer chief commercial officer and the fact that Gregg was one of only two finalists alongside Óscar Pareja. In spelling out the process, general manager Earnie Stewart alluded to speaking with eight luminaries of the U.S. men’s program with over 100 caps to their name, a list of 11 individuals (not counting Stewart himself) which counts Reyna among its members.
November 2020: In his first U.S. squad of the year, Berhalter names Gio Reyna, now at Borussia Dortmund after coming through the youth system at NYCFC, where his father was sporting director until November 2019. Reyna commits to the U.S. despite being eligible for England, Argentina and Portugal. In a media availability, Berhalter favorably compares the younger Reyna to his father.
“Gio and his dad have a very similar grace to them,” he said. “Gio and Claudio move around the field in a really fluid way. They are both competitive. You can see his competitive fire in these games we’ve been watching from Dortmund.”
2021-2022: The United States successfully qualifies for the World Cup in Qatar, with Berhalter leading the team to automatic qualification alongside Canada and Mexico. However, Gio Reyna has little to do with the 14-game final round of qualifying as he deals with a series of injuries. The winger was limited to one start and 196 total minutes across four appearances, starting the opening match and coming off the bench in the final window during March 2022.
Despite the lack of involvement, Claudio speaks favorably about the direction of the program in an interview with The Athletic from November 2021.
“I keep saying this, but five years ago, we were all wondering what the future of the national team would look like,” Claudio said. “Now you know, for so many different reasons, and a lot of people deserve credit. We’ve got to look at the positives.”
November 9, 2022: Gio Reyna is among the 26 players called by Berhalter to represent the United States at the World Cup in Qatar. He’s listed as a forward, with Brenden Aaronson — who broke out during qualifying in Reyna’s absence — instead being deemed a midfielder.
November 10-20, 2022: Only recently back to full fitness with Dortmund, Reyna prepares with the rest of his teammates in Qatar. Sources speaking with The Athletic on the condition of anonymity state that Reyna showed an alarming lack of intensity in training, including a November 17 friendly against Al Gharafa SC. During this match, sources described him as walking around throughout his time on the field during what was otherwise an intense session.
It’s unclear whether Reyna’s lack of intensity was in hopes of protecting a potential injury or if was frustrated at not being set to start the first group stage match against Wales.
November 21, 2022: Reyna is on the bench for the U.S.’s World Cup opener against Wales. As it becomes clear he won’t be involved, the newly 20-year-old Reyna throws his shin guards to the ground in frustration in the sight of cameras.
In a press conference following the game, Berhalter chalks his decision up to avoiding injury, saying “you could see there was a little bit of tightness” during a scrimmage with Al-Gharafa a few days prior, that the team had been “building him up” and that “we think he can play a big role in this tournament, question is when and hopefully on Friday he’ll be one further step ahead.”
Minutes later, Reyna dismisses this rationale to reporters: “I felt good, I felt ready to go. But it was just his decision.”
November 25, 2022: The United States plays England to a 0-0 draw, with Reyna coming on for the final seven minutes. On a Twitter Spaces conversation with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, former U.S. striker Eric Wynalda — whose international career overlapped with Berhalter’s from 1994 to 2000 — calls into question the now-manager’s assessment of Reyna.
“With Gio Reyna out of the lineup right now, which has been a massive controversy within the team — even his own teammates are wanting him on the field and it seems to be (causing) internal strife with the (team) and manager Gregg Berhalter,” Wynalda said. “I don’t know how much I should comment on that, but I’ve been trying to console Gio’s father, Claudio, for the last couple of hours, well, the last couple of days with everything that’s been going on. He was fit to play, Berhalter did lie to the media and say that it was an injury, ask the player to kind of go along with that story, which caused a rift between the two of them and now he’s on the bench which is really unfortunate. The situation should have been handled very differently.”
November 26, 2022: Wynalda tweets that he thinks “they have worked it out – recognized that they could have handled it better and are moving on- as should we(.) Focus on the next game – IMO”
November 28, 2022: Wynalda appears to walk back his comments from three days prior, describing his conversations with Claudio as “two days talking about a kid” while texting about wishing Gio would play more. He asks to dispel that he got information directly from Claudio regarding a rift between the player and the coach. He also clarifies that rather than asking Gio to “go along with” the notion that an injury kept him out against Wales, Berhalter instead “expected” the player to follow suit.
— SiriusXM FC 157 ⚽️📻 (@SiriusXMFC) November 28, 2022
On the day before the United States’ must-win final group stage match against Iran, Berhalter is asked about Wynalda’s series of comments:
“Speaking of the four-year journey, right, there’s been also four years of interacting with you guys (the press contingent). And what I’d say is, you know, I’ll leave it to you to decide if I asked Gio to lie about it,” Berhalter said. “That’s just not who I am. That’s not what I represent. So, you know, if you have to take Eric’s word or my word or whatever, feel free, but I know what happened, that’s not what I represent. Like every other person, Gio is a member of this team that we care deeply for and we know can help the team. It’s a matter of when he can help us and how he can help us.”
December 3, 2022: After failing to appear in the 1-0 win over Iran, Reyna plays the full second half as the United States is eliminated against the Netherlands in the Round of 16. Chasing a two-goal deficit, Reyna takes two shots (both off-target) and sends in two crosses.
December 6, 2022: Berhalter speaks at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson would later clarify that Berhalter participated under the assumption that the comments would be “explicitly off the record.” Instead, a Charter newsletter publishes many of Berhalter’s remarks, including one extended quote which appears to directly touch on the Reyna situation without using the player’s name.
“In this last World Cup, we had a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field,” Berhalter said. “One of 26 players, so it stood out. As a staff, we sat together for hours deliberating what we were going to do with this player. We were ready to book a plane ticket home, that’s how extreme it was. And what it came down to was, we’re going to have one more conversation with him, and part of the conversation was how we’re going to behave from here out. There aren’t going to be any more infractions.
“But the other thing we said to him was, you’re going to have to apologize to the group, but it’s going to have to say why you’re apologizing. It’s going to have to go deeper than just, ‘Guys, I’m sorry.’ And I prepped the leadership group with this. I said, ‘OK, this guy is going to apologize to you as a group, to the whole team.’ And what was fantastic in this whole thing is that after he apologized, they stood up one by one and said, ‘Listen, it hasn’t been good enough. You haven’t been meeting our expectations of a teammate and we want to see change.’ They really took ownership of that process. And from that day on there were no issues with this player.
“As a coach, the way you can deal with things most appropriately is going back to your values. Because it’s difficult to send a player home. It was going to be a massive controversy. You would have been reading about it for five days straight. But we were prepared to do it, because he wasn’t meeting the standards of the group, and the group was prepared to do it as well.”
December 11, 2022: On the day which saw the Charter newsletter transcript circulate, The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal publish details about Reyna’s lack of effort early in the World Cup camp. Among the revelations are his lack of effort in the tune-up scrimmage, Reyna apologizing to teammates for his behavior and that the players believed they were able to move on from the sideshow.
December 12, 2022: On Instagram, Gio Reyna publishes his reaction to Berhalter’s comments and the ensuing coverage.
“I am disappointed that there is continuing coverage of this matter (as well as some highly fictionalized versions of events) and extremely surprised that anyone on the U.S. men’s team staff would contribute to it. Coach Berhalter has always said that issues that arise with the team will stay “in house” so we can focus on team unity and progress. I love my team, I love representing my country, and I am focusing now only on improving and growing as a soccer player and a person. I hope that going forward each person involved in U.S. Soccer focuses only on what is in the best interest of the men’s national team so we can enjoy great success at the World Cup in 2026.”
January 3, 2023: Gregg and Rosalind Berhalter issue the statement about the 1991 incident addressed above.
U.S. Soccer issues a statement of its own concurrently, adding that it learned of separate “inappropriate behavior toward multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization.” The federation has expanded its investigation to include those allegations, the statement says.
“We appreciate Gregg and Rosalind coming forward to speak openly about this incident. Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we will share the results of the investigation publicly when it is complete. U.S. Soccer condemns violence of any kind and takes such allegations very seriously.”
January 4, 2023: In reports from ESPN and The Athletic, further details emerge. In a statement to The Athletic and other media outlets, Danielle Reyna details her communication with Earnie Stewart and the whole series of events that unfolded after Berhalter’s comments on December 6.
Characterizing her conversation with Stewart: “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…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. Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question…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.”
Danielle Reyna’s statement continues: “At the time I called Earnie, many people were trashing Gio on social media due to Gregg’s comments, and I didn’t know when or if this would stop. I just wanted Earnie to help make sure that there would be no further unwarranted attacks on my son. I thought our conversation would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation. I’m not criticizing Earnie here.
“I very much commend the recent efforts by U.S. Soccer to address abuse of women players, and I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared. But 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 December 11, and no one else in my family has made any statements to U.S. Soccer regarding Gregg’s past at all.
Claudio Reyna also adds a comment: “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 December 11 asking him to prevent any additional comments.
“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. However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so.”
U.S. Soccer also announces that Berhalter assistant Anthony Hudson will lead the U.S. men’s January camp as they continue to determine if Berhalter or another coach will lead the team into the 2026 World Cup cycle.
(Photo: ANP via Getty Images)
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