The Berhalter-Reyna saga further exposes US Soccer
By: Brendan Moore (@bmoorecfb)
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter coaching Gio Reyna (Photo by Danielle Parhizkaran | USA TODAY Sports)
International soccer comes with its fair share of drama. Whether it's Qatar bribing money to FIFA to host the World Cup or Sepp Blatter’s controversial win in the FIFA Presidential election in 1998, there has always been a gray area of uncertainty within international soccer. While not on a global scale, the US Soccer drama between the men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter and the Reyna family is par for the course.
The Reyna’s have a long history of success in soccer. The father, Claudio, played professionally for many top clubs overseas, including Manchester City. He also played for the US Men’s National Team from 1994 to 2006. He was a member of four World Cup teams and is the current sporting director for Major League Soccer club Austin FC. The mother, Danielle, played soccer for the University of North Carolina in the early 1990s. The son, Giovanni, is a current USMNT player. He is one of the brightest prospects in the USMNT program at 20 years old. He was named to the 2022 World Cup roster back in November.
Before the World Cup began, Berhalter informed Gio Reyna that he would have a limited role at the tournament. Many expected Gio Reyna to be one of the stars for the US team at the biggest stage of the sport because he was one of the best players with the ball at his feet on the roster.
The Berhalter’s and Reyna’s have always been tied together. Gregg Berhalter and Claudio Reyna played youth and high school soccer together. They also played together on the USMNT. They were both on the 2002 and 2006 World Cup rosters. Danielle Reyna and Gregg Berhalter’s wife, Rosalind, played together for four years at UNC.
Gregg Berhalter (left) and Claudio Reyna (right) at USMNT training (Photo via Getty Images)
Gregg Berhalter has said himself that his family and the Reyna’s are close. Gregg Berhalter has known Gio Reyna since he was young.
During the World Cup, Claudio Reyna complained about his son’s experience at the prestigious tournament to US Soccer Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and USMNT general manager Brian McBride. Gio Reyna played seven minutes in the group stage and played the entire second half of the USMNT’s knockout stage match against the Netherlands. Sources close to the situation told ESPN that Claudio Reyna threatened to share allegations from Gregg Berhalter’s teenage years. Claudio Reyna denied the allegations in a statement on Wednesday.
On Dec. 11, over a week after the USMNT was eliminated from the World Cup, Gregg Berhalter made comments about an unnamed player and his poor behavior and attitude at the World Cup and how the player was almost sent home. His comments weren’t not meant for the public as he was speaking at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership. It was pretty clear that the unnamed player was Gio Reyna.
USMNT forward Gio Reyna at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (Photo via Getty Images)
After Gregg Berhalter’s comments, Danielle Reyna shared past allegations of a domestic violence incident. This was an obvious effort to take Gregg Berhalter down.
Gio Reyna posted a statement on Instagram on Dec. 12 confirming that he was the unnamed player that Gregg Berhalter was referring to.
“I fully acknowledge that I let my emotions get the best of me… for a few days after learning about my limited role,” Gio Reyna said in his statement. “I apologized to my teammates and coach for this, and I was told I was forgiven.”
Ok, great, everything is solved. Wrong. There was still one piece to the puzzle: Danielle Reyna’s allegations on Gregg Berhalter.
On Jan. 3, Gregg Berhalter posted a statement on Twitter revealing what those allegations were. Back in 1991, Gregg and Rosalind went to a bar after they had been dating for several months. The two got into an argument and it became physical, and Gregg kicked Rosalind. Gregg said that he went to counseling after, and the police were never involved. Months later, Rosalind forgave Gregg, and they started talking again. The pair have been married for 25 years and have four kids.
It was revealed the next day that Danielle Reyna was the person that shared this information with US Soccer. US Soccer has since launched an investigation with a third party.
There is no line between friend and coach within US Soccer. I understand that Claudio and Danielle Reyna want what is best for their kid, but Gio Reyna is an adult. This isn’t youth soccer anymore. Coaches aren’t handing out orange slices at halftime. The Reyna family needs to pull up their big boy pants.
Gio is only 20 years old, but he is a professional athlete. If you have a problem with your playing time, prove the coaches wrong. You are only hurting yourself by letting it affect you.
I understand that Claudio Reyna is good friends with Earnie Stewart and Brian McBride, but he needs to be better. Complaining about your son’s playing time to influential people in US Soccer isn’t going to fix anything. It simply further proves the issues within the organization.
Danielle Reyna can’t act based on emotions. Be the adult in the situation and make a rational decision. I understand that the Reyna family didn’t like Gregg Berhalter’s comments, but one mistake doesn’t excuse another mistake. Also, the domestic violence issue from 31 years ago that has been resolved for a long time is not her story to share. The Berhalter’s should not have been put in that position where they had to share the story from a night that probably haunts them.
Gregg Berhalter is also at fault. Firstly, he shouldn’t have kicked Rosalind. That is simply inexcusable no matter how heated the argument was. Secondly, his comments about the unnamed player, which was Gio Reyna, was unprofessional. That is something that needs to be kept in the locker room. It should have never been said.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (Photo by Stephen Nadler/ISI Photos/Getty)
In no way should this affect Gio Reyna’s status in the USMNT. He made a mistake and apologized. This all should have been solved before the World Cup even started. Claudio and Danielle hurt Gio as a player. Gio currently plays his club soccer at Borussia Dortmund in Germany. He is good enough to play at bigger clubs. However, there is a risk to signing him because of what his parents did in this situation.
The root of this whole issue is the politics and narcissism that exists within US Soccer. Gregg Berhalter was hired as the USMNT head coach in December 2018. Gregg’s brother, Jay, was the chief commercial officer of the US Soccer Federation until his 2020 resignation. Isn’t that convenient?
This upcoming World Cup cycle will be the most important in history. The U.S. is co-hosting the 2026 World Cup, so all eyes will be on US Soccer in the next four years.
It’s time to wipe the whole system. Hire people that aren’t all friends. If Claudio Reyna wasn’t close with Gregg Berhalter, Earnie Stewart and Brian McBride, this situation might not have ever happened. From the top to the bottom, US Soccer needs to hit the reset button and this whole dramatic situation is proof of what already existed. It’s just now boiling to the surface.
This situation is why nobody takes American soccer seriously. The organization and people involved act like children. US Soccer is the most unprofessional, immature and narcissistic organization I’ve seen in a long time and it’s time for a change.