EletiofeInvestigation reveals extent of Gregg Berhalter's 1992 assault, Reynas'...

Investigation reveals extent of Gregg Berhalter’s 1992 assault, Reynas’ meddling and threats

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Dec 3, 2022; Al Rayyan, Qatar; United States of America manager Gregg Berhalter talks with midfielder Giovanni Reyna (7) against the Netherlands during the second half of a round of sixteen match in the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Khalifa International Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Gregg Berhalter and Gio Reyna during the USMNT’s 2022 World Cup Round of 16 game against the Netherlands. (Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)

Content warning: This article contains mentions of assault and battery.

An investigation into decades-old domestic violence involving former U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter unearthed more details of Berhalter’s 1992 assault of his now-wife, and revealed how the parents of USMNT star Gio Reyna forced those details back into the limelight.

The investigation, which was commissioned by U.S. Soccer and carried out by attorneys at the Alston & Bird law firm, cleared Berhalter of further wrongdoing beyond the 1992 incident, which Berhalter publicly detailed in January. And U.S. Soccer, in a statement released alongside the report, said that Berhalter “remains a candidate to serve as head coach” of the USMNT going forward.

But on that January night in 1992, while drinking as 18-year-old college students at a nightclub called Players in North Carolina, Berhalter and his then-girlfriend, Rosalind, “began to argue inside the bar,” Alston & Bird investigators wrote in their report. “They left the bar together and continued to argue; once outside, [Rosalind] hit [Gregg] in the face; [Gregg] pushed her to the ground and kicked her twice; [Gregg] was tackled by a passerby, not known to either of the Berhalters.”

Beyond those details, the investigative report, which U.S. Soccer released Monday, largely corroborated Gregg’s public account of the aftermath, which included a reconciliation between him and Rosalind seven months later.

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“Mr. Berhalter acknowledged his culpability and his need to be accountable the day after the incident occurred in 1992,” the investigating attorneys wrote. “The witnesses further confirmed that Mr. Berhalter immediately self-reported the assault to his head coach at UNC the day after the 1992 Incident occurred, and, of his own accord, took steps to prevent it from happening again.”

Claudio Reyna’s ‘pattern’

The investigation, on the other hand, often contradicted public statements given by Claudio and Danielle Reyna, the parents of Gio and longtime friends of the Berhalters, who told U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart about the 1992 incident on a Dec. 11 phone call amid frustration over Gio’s lack of playing time at the World Cup.

But that was not an isolated call; investigators found that Claudio — who, via an attorney, refused their requests for an interview — had a “pattern of periodic outreach” to U.S. Soccer officials “to convey certain complaints and comments about U.S. Soccer’s treatment of his children, including primarily his son.” That pattern continued through the 2022 World Cup, but it did not begin there.

His behavior was described by one unnamed person as “inappropriate,” “bullying,” and “mean-spirited.” It began as early as 2016, when Gio was a teen on U.S. youth teams and for New York City FC in U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy. Claudio once attempted to persuade U.S. Soccer officials to overturn a red card that Gio had received. In 2018, he wrote an email complaining about a female referee: “Can we get real and have male refs for a game like this. Its embarrassing guys. What are we trying to prove? A game like this deserves bett[e]r attention.”

In 2019, Claudio sent messages that foreshadowed his behavior in 2022. He texted Berhalter to complain about U.S. U-17 coach Raphaël Wicky during the U-17 World Cup. “He’s the worst coach,” Claudio wrote.

“When things don’t go great for Gio, [the Reynas] pivot and go into attack mode,” Gregg told investigators. And that’s what they did this past November.

The Reynas’ World Cup anger and vague threats

The investigation revealed that, after the USMNT’s opener against Wales, in which Gio did not play, Claudio and Danielle “each made a vague comment to U.S. Soccer officials suggesting they knew damaging information about Mr. Berhalter that U.S. Soccer did not know.”

“What a complete and utter f***ing joke,” Claudio texted Stewart that night. “Our family is disgusted in case you are wondering. Disgusted at how a coach is allowed to never be challenged and do whatever he wants.”

He also texted USMNT general manager Brian McBride: “Our entire family is disgusted, angry, and done with you guys. Don’t expect nice comments from anyone in our family about US Soccer. I’m being transparent to you not like the political clown show of the federation.”

Three days later, according to McBride, at a meeting that he’d scheduled with the Reynas to explain Gio’s lack of playing time, Claudio told McBride: “You guys don’t even know what we know about Gregg.”

Danielle, meanwhile, after the Wales game, refused to board a bus that her family had been sharing with Berhalter’s family for transportation to and from matches. Prior to that night, Danielle and Rosalind had been close friends, dating back to their days as roommates at UNC. They “had talked every day for decades,” Gregg told investigators. “And it ended immediately.”

The following day, at a lunch event for USMNT families and friends, according to an unnamed witness, she said something to the effect of: “Once this tournament is over, I can make one phone call and give one interview, and [Gregg’s] cool sneakers and bounce passes will be gone.”

“The vibe was like, ‘I can take him down,’” the unnamed witness told investigators.

“There were 150 people in the [USMNT’s] Friends and Family program at this year’s World Cup,” Berhalter told investigators. “All were having a great time — except for five people who were absolutely miserable. Those five were cursing, acting horribly. It was the Reynas.”

World Cup aftermath

The World Cup drama seemed to have subsided by early December, after the USMNT lost 3-1 to the Netherlands in the Round of 16. Then, en route back home from Qatar, Gregg stopped in New York and attended the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership. During a session that he believed was essentially off the record, he told a story about how he’d almost sent a misbehaving U.S. player home during the World Cup. He did not name the player, but hours after his comments were published on Dec. 11, subsequent reports confirmed that the player was Gio.

Stewart essentially confirmed those reports and Berhalter’s account to investigators. He said that Gio “walk[ed] around, and mope[d] around the whole time” during a scrimmage days before the Wales match, and “seemed ticked off” and “did not appear to be trying at all. After a conversation between Berhalter and Gio, Gio’s insufficient effort continued, which led to conversations among officials and coaches about whether to send Gio home.”

According to Stewart, Berhalter made the decision to let Gio stay, on the condition that Gio apologize to teammates — which he ultimately did. After the apology, by all accounts, there were no more issues.

But then, a week after the USMNT’s elimination, Berhalter’s comments circulated. That day, Claudio “sent a series of text messages” to Stewart, investigators found. Both Claudio and Danielle then spoke with Stewart on the phone. According to Stewart, near the end of an hour-long call, Danielle alleged that Gregg had “beat the s*** out of” Rosalind during their freshman year of college.

When contacted by investigators, after what they called “several attempts to schedule an interview,” Danielle initially denied having talked to Stewart that day. “She then called back almost immediately,” investigators wrote, and admitted to the call and the allegation.

“Specifically, Mrs. Reyna said she brought up the incident to Mr. Stewart in their phone call on December 11th because Mr. Berhalter has put her in two situations where he hurt two people she ‘loved beyond words’ and she ‘can’t believe a man has done that twice.’ [Danielle] said she was referring to the fight [Gregg] had with [Rosalind] and the ‘public outing [of] Gio.’ She explained further that she told Mr. Stewart about the 1992 Incident because he is a friend and she wanted him to understand her feelings.”

Stewart, though, felt obligated to report the allegation that night. He called Alison Kocoras, U.S. Soccer’s senior counsel, who relayed to investigators that Danielle told Stewart that, although she’d never “go public” with the 1992 assault allegation, she’d start talking about it privately.

U.S. Soccer subsequently tabbed Alston & Bird to lead the investigation. A few weeks later, U.S. Soccer announced that, while the investigation was ongoing, its scope had broadened to include “potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization.”

Technically, the investigation concluded, neither Claudio nor Danielle violated any U.S. Soccer policies — but that’s largely because U.S. Soccer did not have firm policies governing parent-employee interactions. The federation said in its Monday statement that it would “revisit” its “policies concerning appropriate parental conduct and communications with staff at the national team level. We will be updating those policies as we continue to work to ensure safe environments for all participants in our game.”

Where Berhalter, Reynas go from here

Prior to the investigation, Berhalter was the strong favorite to retain his job as USMNT coach for another four years, through the 2026 World Cup. But the investigation muddied his future and put U.S. Soccer’s post-World Cup processes on hold.

Berhalter’s contract expired on Dec. 31. In early January, federation officials said he remained a candidate to lead the team going forward, and Berhalter said he’d “like to continue in my role.” But then Stewart, the man who originally hired him in 2018 and now had the power to re-hire him, left his post to take a job at PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

With McBride also leaving — a decision he says he made back in October — Berhalter has lost two of his biggest allies within U.S. Soccer. He appears to be a long shot for a second cycle as USMNT coach, although U.S. Soccer’s interpretation of the investigation was that “there is no legal impediment to employing him.”

Berhalter, speaking to Yahoo Sports Monday night via phone from London, said that he and Rosalind are “looking forward to the next steps. We’re glad that [the investigation is] finished, that it is concluded, and we look forward to what comes next.” He declined to elaborate.

A decision on the USMNT’s coaching future will be made by the next sporting director. In its Monday statement, U.S. Soccer said that interviews for the sporting director role are underway.

As for Gio, multiple U.S. Soccer figures have stressed that nothing from the investigation will impair his relationship with the USMNT going forward. Interim head coach Anthony Hudson met with Gio in Germany last month. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder should remain a key a piece for the team this year, throughout the 2026 World Cup cycle, and beyond.

As for Claudio, he stepped down from his position as Austin FC’s sporting director amid the scandal.

In a statement Monday night, the Reynas’ agent, Dan Segal, essentially argued that the family had been mischaracterized by the Alston & Bird report:

“Anyone who knows the Reynas knows that they are kind, generous people who have devoted countless hours and energy to promoting US soccer and to the welfare of so many fellow players, parents, coaches, administrators and others,” Segal wrote. “They are also a tremendously loving family that was profoundly impacted by the terrible loss of their eldest son Jack to cancer in 2012 at the age of 13.

“Claudio and Danielle acknowledge that they have said and done things in the heat of the moment that they regret, particularly the statement that triggered the US Soccer investigation. Gio acknowledges that, like countless players before, he showed too much disappointment when not selected to play at the World Cup.

“That is only part of the story here, but the only side of the story that the investigators chose to tell. It is disheartening and grossly unfair to see the family turned into one-dimensional caricatures to progress a narrative that benefits others. Hopefully, as a US soccer community we are better than that.”

In a Monday email to Alston & Bird’s lead investigator, the Reynas’ attorney, Anirudh Bansal, also argued that Claudio was not given an opportunity to respond to “dated events.” The investigators, though, said they tried multiple times to interview Claudio, and Bansal declined those requests. He instead offered only a “proffer” — an exchange of information between attorneys.

Amid the back-and-forth, in January emails, Bansal questioned the relevance of the Reynas’ actions to the investigation, and questioned U.S. Soccer’s “objectives.” He wrote “that any effort to defame my clients in a public statement — whether in a report of investigation or otherwise — will be met with appropriate action in the courts.”

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