Q&A: Key questions behind row that has left US Soccer in crisis

Behind the ‘blackmail’, drunk domestic violence and team selection row between two old team-mates that’s left American soccer in crisis… So why is manager Gregg Berhalter sidelined? Why are Gio Reyna’s family involved? And what happens now?

  • USA head coach Gregg Berhalter has revealed all about the violent 1991 incident 
  • He confirmed he kicked his girlfriend Rosalind, now his wife, outside of a bar 
  • Claudio Reyna and his wife Danielle contacted US Soccer about Berhalter
  • READ: Ex-USMNT stars turn on the Reynas, as Tony Meola slams old teammate for ‘crossing the line of a friendship’
  • READ: Crisis-hit US Soccer will NOT rush its call on Berhalter’s future but he could STAY as coach, hints director Earnie Stewart

The row between Gregg Berhalter and the Reyna family has caused a crisis at US Soccer which is continuing to dominate the news agenda.  

Berhalter went public on Tuesday to reveal that he kicked his wife in 1991 outside a bar in North Carolina following an argument. He made that statement because he claimed he was being blackmailed and so chose to get ahead of the story coming out. 

Danielle and Claudio Reyna confirmed in the aftermath that they contacted US Soccer about Berhalter, who they have known since high school, and now Berhalter has been temporarily removed from his role as head coach while he is investigated. 

DailyMail.com has cleared up all the key questions involved in the case with so much uncertainty on the figures involved and the next steps…  

Gregg Berhalter admitted to ‘kicking his wife Rosalind (left) in the legs’ after an argument in 1991 in North Carolina, a story he has claimed he was being blackmailed over last month

What is this all about? 

The row surrounds an incident in 1991 when Berhalter kicked his then girlfriend Rosalind in the legs during an agument outside a bar.

Berhalter, who was then an 18-year-old freshman on the soccer team at the University of North Carolina, was partying at a local bar when he had a drunken argument with Rosalind, before it became physical and he kicked her. 

The story had never previously been made public. 

How has it come out?

Berhalter decided to put out a 433-word statement on his unverified Twitter account – it was confirmed by US Soccer as a legitimate statement from the national team boss – to get ahead of the story leaking into the media. 

He was aware that the story was coming out and took ownership of the story, going public with the fact he did kick his wife outside a bar in North Carolina in 1991. 

Makes the allegation that an ‘individual’ attempted to blackmail him over going public with the story during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 

Berhalter released a statement to his Twitter profile on Tuesday afternoon to clarify some ‘personal information which a third party has used against my family and me’

Do we know the individual he refers to?

We do. It is Danielle Reyna, wife of Claudio Reyna, a high school friend and former team-mate of Berhalter.

The pair’s son, Gio, is a current United States international that is being managed by Berhalter. 

Both Danielle and Claudio have since made statements, confirming that Danielle did make a call to US Soccer’s sporting director Earnie Stewart on December 11, armed with information about the 1991 bar row. 

Why now? 

It’s a good question and there has been speculation that the annoyance from the Reyna family stems from the lack of involvement Gio Reyna had at the World Cup in Qatar.

The 20-year-old was reported to be disappointed when he was told by Berhalter that despite impressing for his club, Borussia Dortmund, he would play a very limited role in Qatar. In their opening group match against Wales he was seen throwing his shin-guards to the floor in anger.

The row went on and on and at the start of December at a leadership conference, Berhalter suggested one player was close to being expelled. Numerous media outlets named Reyna as that player.  

Ex-USA captain Claudio Reyna (back left) and his wife Danielle (right) – Giovanni Reyna’s (bottom right – aged 5) parents – admitted to reporting Berhalter’s domestic violence incident to US Soccer

Could this really all be about Gio Reyna not playing much?

Danielle and Claudio Reyna are proud parents and will have seen and listened to the anger and frustration of their son. 

The tension in Qatar was obvious from the first game when Berhalter told reporters Reyna wasn’t fully fit and minutes later Reyna completely dismissed his manager’s words and said he was ‘good to go’.

Days later a Twitter Spaces talk featured ex-US striker Eric Wynalda in which he claimed to have been ‘consoling’ Claudio Reyna over the perceived treatment of his son by Berhalter. 

‘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,’ Wynalda alleged.

This caused a storm and soon Wynalda was rowing back on his comments, distancing himself from Reyna seemingly to avoid a family pile-on and then suggested Berhalter ‘expected’ Gio Reyna to follow the story of not being fit, rather than telling him.

Evidently, with what we know now, the family were less than impressed and this seems to have prompted what they saw as direct action against Berhalter.  

Gio Reyna made just two appearances at the World Cup and both of those were off the bench

So, what has Berhalter said about it so far?

His statement was detailed and long, explaining the incident in question in 1991 as well as the ‘therapy’ he underwent to help repair his relationship with Rosalind, his now wife. They have four children together. 

On Twitter, Berhalter wrote: ‘During the World Cup, an individual contacted US Soccer, saying that 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 US Soccer.

‘This is a difficult step to take, but my wife, Rosalind, and I want to clearly and directly share the truth. This is a story that belongs to us, but hopefully there are lessons from our relationship that can be valuable to others.

‘In the fall of 1991, I met my soulmate. I had just turned 18 and was a freshman in college when I met Rosalind for the first time. There was a familiar feeling when we spoke. Rosalind was and is an amazing person – determined, empathetic, fun to be around – and we connected immediately.

Danielle Reyna was unhappy at the treatment of her son Gio by Berhalter at the World Cup 

‘It felt like we had known each other for years. We had been dating for four months when an incident happened between us that would shape the future of our relationship. One night, while 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.

‘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. I told my parents, family, and friends what happened because I wanted to take full responsibility for my behavior.

‘Rosalind also informed her parents, family, and friends. 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 ever made. To this day, that type of behavior has never been repeated.’

He has not made any further comment. 

What did Danielle Reyna say in her explanation?

A day after Berhalter’s statement went public, Reyna herself wanted to ‘set the record straight’ amid allegations of blackmail, and that she had asked US Soccer to sack Berhalter, which she denies.  

Her statement read: ‘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 continued: ‘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.’

She went on to claim that the incident in question was being significantly played down in comparison to her memory of the night.  

Claudio and Danielle Reyna (pictured in 2018) released statements regarding Berhalter

Danielle was frustrated by Berhalter getting ‘forgiveness for doing something much worse’ at a similar age to Gio. Reyna played just twice at World Cup with both appearances off the bench

‘Without going into detail, [Berhalter’s statement] from [Tuesday] significantly minimizes the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my room-mate, team-mate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed,’ the statement continued. 

‘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.

‘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.’ 

How did Claudio Reyna react?

Unsurprisingly, Reyna, who is now a sporting director with Austin FC, stood by his wife.

‘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,’ his statement read. 

Claudio Reyna (No. 10) and Berhalter (No. 3) played for the USA between 1994 and 2006

So, what is Berhalter’s relationship with Reyna? 

Berhalter and Reyna were high school team-mates and close friends as kids growing up. Their careers have been inextricably intertwined since. 

The two men overlapped for the US National Team for more than a decade, too.

When Berhalter was appointed as manager of the US team, Reyna was one of the first to praise the ‘exciting’ coach he called a friend. 

‘Gregg is an exciting choice for the National Team job,’ he said. ‘He is someone who is organized and extremely detailed with his preparation for every training session, camp, and game. 

‘I think without a doubt players will respond to him because of the intensity and energy he will bring. Players love the level of information and preparation he provides. No doubt he will give the team the right mentality to get results and play good soccer as the weeks and months progress.

The situation between long-time friends Reyna (left) and Berhalter has divided US Soccer

The two men played soccer on the same team at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey

‘As a player, he was a leader on and off the field and brought a high level of professionalism. Even though he didn’t wear the armband, he acted as a captain in terms of how he supported his team-mates. 

‘He became of voice of sharing ideas and thoughts, and was always someone I spoke to about how we could play better and ways we could exploit our opponents. 

‘As a friend, colleague and team-mate, it was no surprise that he transitioned into being a good coach.’

Safe to say their relationship has never been as strained as it is today. 

What is Rosalind’s history with Danielle that she brought up? 

They were room-mates and team-mates at UNC – and so would see and share all the details of their college years. 

Then known as Danielle Egan, Mrs Reyna was a confidant for Rosalind when she had been kicked by her then-boyfriend Berhalter outside a bar. 

Both women eventually forgave him but years later, with relations strained due to comments made towards her son, Danielle Reyna took action by bringing the story to US Soccer officials.  

Danielle Reyna (No. 14 – bottom right) and Rosalind Berhalter (No. 7 – second row, third right) were soccer team-mates for four years with the University of North Carolina

So, was Berhalter blackmailed? 

Naturally these things are heavily scrutinised and open to interpretation. Berhalter will say yes, both Danielle and Claudio Reyna have strenuously denied they made any blackmail attempt on Berhalter. 

The US head coach clearly feels the 1991 drunken kick on Rosalind was being used as ammunition to ruin him. 

How did US Soccer react? 

They released a statement 15 minutes after Berhalter, perhaps giving him the chance to take control of it before they brought the hammer down. 

‘Through this process, US Soccer has learned about potential inappropriate behaviour towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organisation,’ it read.

‘We take such behaviour seriously and have expanded our investigation to include those allegations.

Berhalter’s US Soccer contract officially expired at the end of last month after the World Cup

‘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.

‘US Soccer condemns violence of any kind and takes such allegations very seriously.’

It was later revealed that Berhalter will not take charge of the USA’s training camp in California later in January as a result of the investigation.  

Who is taking charge in California?  

Assistant coach Anthony Hudson will serve as interim manager for their LA training camp. 

He will take charge of friendlies against Serbia and Colombia, supported by B.J. Callaghan and Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team head coach Mikey Varas.

Coinciding with Hudson’s – for now temporary – promotion, Berhalter’s future as US head coach is under review.

How has the media reacted? 

The unanimous verdict is that everybody has come out of this badly. 

It is one of the most fiercely debated stories in US sports right now, with ex-goalkeeper Tony Meola as well as former strikers Taylor Twellman, Herculez Gomez, and Stu Holden all using their platforms on Twitter and on their respective networks to wade in on the situation.

Meola felt culpability with the mess US Soccer finds itself in lies with the Reyna family, rather than Berhalter. 

On SiriusXMFC, Meola blasted Claudio and Danielle for their actions which ‘crossed a line’ in his eyes. 

Ex-USMNT keeper Tony Meola blasted the Reyna family saying ‘this should never happen’

‘This should never happen.  I don’t care that your son was ridiculed. I had my kids go through college, you know how many times I wanted to pick up the phone and go, “coach what the ___ are you doing with my kid?” and I didn’t, because I know the repercussions after. I’m an adult,’ Meola remarked.

‘I know the repercussions. I love US Soccer. I have always loved the national team. I always loved to play for the national team. When I was a player, I wore the badge with more pride than anyone will ever know. Only I know how proud I was to wear the badge. 

‘I became a fan after I was done, and I was proud of the national team. I was proud of where we were going. I was proud of the development we were making in this country. I became a national youth national team coach. I was proud to watch this group of players by the way grow up – including Gio Reyna. 

‘I’m not really proud of what’s happened today with the national team. I really am not. This saddens me, in a lot of ways. It disgusts me in so many different ways. This should never have came out. Shame on Danielle Reyna to think – knowing what she knows… that she didn’t think this was gonna come out. That she thought that this was just a conversation. 

‘That she – and by the way, I’m gonna add Claudio to this – that he crossed the line of a friendship… They completely crossed the line and it’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable. I’m sad to be a US Soccer fan today.’

But others, including former USMNT striker and current ESPN analyst Herculez Gomez, took a different view, one that puts US Soccer executives ‘on the clock’. 

In a thread on Twitter he wrote: ‘This is wild and extremely sad for all parties involved. Domestic violence, Blackmail claims , Helicopter parents, and just sad telenovela drama between what were a group of two very close friends.

Herculez Gomez criticized US Soccer, tweeting that they ‘can’t dodge these questions forever’

‘Cindy P. Cone, Earnie Stewart and [ex-USMNT striker and current team GM] Brian McBride are on the clock now. Can’t dodge these questions forever. Investigation pending. We get it. I don’t see how Gregg Berhalter comes back from this. More fallout may come out of this yet. He may struggle to find work after this in the US.

‘Claudio & Danielle Reyna come off looking terrible in this investigation, but Claudio won’t be impacted by it. At least not work wise w/ Austin FC. No need for a parent of a full national team player to ever have direct contact with federation or team brass. For what?

‘Gio Reyna will now be unfairly (or fairly for many) judged for his parents actions. He’s still only 20, he made a mistake(s). Rosalind Berhalter doesn’t deserve having this play out for the world to see, for her kids to see.

‘In the midst of this are a pair of families with very young children that now have to live out the past (and current) mistakes (and traumas) of their parents. In a public forum. This trumps 1998.’ 

So, what now?

Every person involved in this row has spoken except for Rosalind and it is considered likely she will avoid adding any fuel to this fire. 

The investigation is not expected to be a quick process and there are also serious question marks around Gio Reyna’s standing in the locker room, following the involvement of his parents in all this. 

If Berhalter is cleared and kept on as manager, Reyna’s prospects would appear slim to none of featuring. 

For now, this is a very explosive waiting game.  

Berhalter and his wife Rosalind embrace after the USA exited the World Cup on December 3

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