This should be a preemptive and exciting moment for the USA men’s national team. A group of young players performed admirably at the World Cup in Qatar and could take a step forward by 2026, when the United States will co-host the tournament with Canada and Mexico.
But instead of looking ahead with anticipation, we are caught up in a Shakespearean drama, the future uncertain.
For those who need a quick recap: at the World Cup in Qatar, the talented striker Gio Reina He showed an alarming lack of effort in training, which frustrated his teammates and coaches and contributed to less than expected playing time in the tournament. Rayna eventually apologized to the group and by all accounts, the team moved on.
A few days after the US was eliminated, coach Greg Berhalter detailed the story at a leadership conference in New York City. Berhalter’s comments were supposed to be off the record and Reina’s name was never mentioned, but they were nevertheless published in a newsletter after the event. And to anyone paying attention, it was clear to whom he was referring.
Gio’s parents, Claudio and Daniel Reyna, were upset that their son’s unprofessional behavior was being broadcast publicly, and called on NFL manager Ernie Stewart to vent their anger. Danielle tells him about a 1991 domestic violence incident in which Greg Berhalter kicked his current wife, Rosalind, when they were dating while at the University of North Carolina.
“I told Ernie I thought it was particularly unfair that Gio … was still being dragged through the mud when Greg sought and received forgiveness for doing something much worse at the same age,” she said in a statement.
Stewart then took these allegations to his NFL bosses, who hired an outside law firm to investigate further. Soon the whole matter became public knowledge.
The height of it all was how intertwined all these limbs were. Greg Berhalter and Claudio Reyna became friends playing under Claudio’s father on the youth team in Northern New Jersey. They went to high school together and were teammates for the United States at the World Cup twice. Rosalind Berhalter and Danielle Reyna were good friends, roommates, and teammates on the UNC football team. They kept their families close for the next 30 years. Stewart also has a long history with both families, having played with Claudio Reina in three World Cups and with Greg Berhalter in one.
Apart from Rosalind Berhalter and Stewart, all participants behaved disgracefully.
The lack of effort was entirely inappropriate from 20-year-old Gio Reina, whose ability to start the opener against Wales did not respect his team-mates, coaches and players who narrowly missed out on the final list.
Talking About the Situation in a Room Full of Strangers was Foolishness by Greg Berhalter. Regardless of the event’s ground rules, the USA’s head coach needs to know that revealing details inside the locker room in any unfamiliar location could cause a leak.
It should go without saying that Greg Berhalter’s abuse of Rosalind was reprehensible. She will always have to take the shock of the moment; He will have to live with this shame for the rest of his life. Knowledge of him should play a role in whether American football will keep Berhalter, who was 18 when he offended Rosalind, as head coach. The ongoing investigation must also look into what the union knew about the incident when Berhalter was first hired in December 2018. At the time, Berhalter’s brother Jay was a high-ranking USSF executive, though Stewart was most directly responsible for the hiring.
Elder Renas should also be ashamed. Claudio Reyna admitted in a statement earlier this month that he had been texting Stewart and GM Brian McBride, his former USA teammate, about his frustration at not having playing time in Qatar. This would be inappropriate behavior for a parent of an under-12 player. For a former USMNT captain and current MLS athletic director whose son was then in a World Cup, it was highly inappropriate.
These types of actions appear to be part of a pattern according to Reyna, who was first reported From Fox Sports Last Thursday and later confirmed by sources the athletepreviously tried to influence United States U-17 national team coach Rafael Weki regarding his treatment of Gio at the 2019 U-17 World Cup.
Of course, none of this is as bad as Daniel Rina detailing the incident in which Berhalter kicked Rosalind to Stewart. The issue is not with revelations of abuse, but how Danielle Reyna revealed it: without Rosalind’s consent.
In her statement, Danielle did not say she reported the abuse to Stewart out of concern for Rosalind, her friend of more than 30 years. She didn’t say she told Stewart because she felt Greg was morally incapable of coaching the USMNT. By her own admission, she naively did not realize that what she said could prompt an investigation.
It didn’t seem to matter to her that it wasn’t her story she wanted to share. Never mind that she was once a close friend of Rosalind’s. It didn’t even matter that the Burhalters had come to terms with the incident, they reconciled and seemed to have had a long, happy and fruitful marriage. The only thing that seemed to matter to Danielle was that Greg made some comments about her son’s bad behavior at the World Cup. That was enough for her to drag another family through the mud. What I did was spiteful, vindictive, and completely disproportionate.
She reads parts of Danielle’s statement as if she feels her family members are the victims. That’s funny. The only victims here are Rosalind Berhalter and her children, who had to live this uncomfortable experience under some incredibly bright lights.
For others, the period ahead could be decisive, as US Soccer’s independent investigation remains open.
Berhalter wants to stay on as U.S. head coach, and Stewart told reporters he was still being considered, but there were legitimate questions even before this drama became public about whether he should be retained. The 2022 World Cup was a solid success but not a smashing success on the field with a few missteps along the way.
Players who have been asked about the scandal over the past two weeks have generally been supportive of Berhalter, but it is possible, such as American legend Darcus Beasley. Featured on HBO Max’s Aftergame After the United States beat New Zealand 4-0 on Tuesday, his comments in the leadership seminar hurt his standing in the locker room. NFL may decide bringing Berhalter back will be too problematic, especially if the association aims to focus entirely on building positive momentum ahead of 2026.
However, realistic alternatives to taking over Berhalter’s job may be scarce. For example, training for the USMNT could be very boring until 2026. As one of the host nations, there is no qualification for the United States and there is no guarantee that Americans will get into the 2024 Copa América. The only meaningful matches for the American men could be between now and Next World Cup start against regional rivals in CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup. For big-name, world-class managers, these tournaments probably won’t be all that attractive. And for all we know, US Soccer, which has paid and continues to pay an enormous amount of legal fees thanks to various lawsuits and investigations, may not even be able to afford the kinds of salaries commanded by the top managers in the market.
Claudio Reina’s future could also be affected. According to a statement from the union on January 3, during the course of the investigation, the USSF “learned of possible inappropriate behavior toward multiple members of our staff by individuals outside our organization. We take such behavior seriously and have expanded our investigation to include those allegations.” Given his statement about texting Stewart and McBride and the report on his texting about Wicky at the U-17 World Cup, this extended scope could implicate Reyna, and could lead to repercussions by Austin FC, her employer.
“At no time have I threatened anyone, nor will I ever,” Reyna said in his statement. But if the investigation confirms instances of inappropriate behavior by Renna, Austin should seriously consider whether they want to continue employing him as athletic director.
Fitting with the rest of this story, there is also some personal awkwardness at play in Austin, which is coached by former US international Josh Wolf. The two-time World Cup veteran came to the club after spending six years as Berhalter’s senior lieutenant, first with Columbus, then with the USMNT. In addition, Austin is owned by Anthony Precourt, who hired Berhalter in Columbus in November 2013. This is a pair of individuals with deep connections to Berhalter on both sides of the rayon on the Austin organizational chart.
Austin has already put some distance between himself and Reyna — at least temporarily. Since 5 January, the day after it was reported that Renas’ team had been involved in the scandal, the club have not cited Claudio in any of their first-team list-related press releases, instead including a color from Wolfe or their director of player personnel Sean. Rubio. Under normal circumstances, Rina is quoted in advertisements related to the list. A club spokesperson declined to comment on the reason for the change when it was reached on Tuesday.
There are questions to be answered for Gio Reyna, too. He’s still young and can certainly grow from his bad behavior in Qatar, but not putting in the proper effort at a World Cup is a very important red flag no matter what age. Reyna is talented, but the feeling that he deserved to start for a US team where he didn’t play a significant role during the playoffs due to injuries indicates a degree of entitlement out of proportion to what he’s already done on the field. He also ignores the ability of fellow wingers Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah, who both started and performed well against Reina in Qatar.
The first time he returns to the locker room in the United States may also be a little uncomfortable. It may not end up being an issue, but it’s not hard to imagine some of his teammates looking sideways at him after his mom and dad escalated this drama.
If Reyna responds to this situation with humility, by putting his head up and using his considerable talents to earn his place in the team, then he will be fine for club and country. If he doesn’t, it could negatively affect his career.
More than anything, this is a ridiculous and sad way for the American guys to end a relatively successful World Cup run and usher in what should be an exciting moment for the entire American soccer community. We don’t know what will come of this madness, but we do know that what should have been a positive moment has already been indelibly tainted.
Rena’s mother reported an incident involving Berhalter and his wife to US Soccer
(Photo: Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)