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US Soccer report acquits Gregg Berhalter and highlights the meddling of Gio Reyna’s parents

A three-month investigation into a decades-long physical altercation between former national soccer team coach Gregg Berhalter and the woman he would later marry cleared Berhalter but revealed a long series of inappropriate actions by the player’s parents. from USMNT, Gio Reyna.

The report, prepared by the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird and released Monday by US Soccer, found nothing to prevent Berhalter from returning as coach of the US national team. Anthony Hudson, Berhalter’s main assistant coach during the World Cup last fall, currently leads the team on an interim basis as US Soccer searches for a replacement for sports director Earnie Stewart, who resigned last month.

Interviews for Stewart’s replacement have already begun and US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said the person who is ultimately hired will be responsible for selecting a coach. However, the federation made it clear that Berhalter, who has the best winning percentage for a US coach who worked more than two games, will be considered for the job.

“Given the investigators’ conclusion that there are no legal bars to hiring him, Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to serve as head coach of the Men’s National Team,” the federation said in a statement.

Berhalter’s contract with US Soccer expired shortly after last fall’s World Cup in Qatar, where the US was eliminated in the round of 16. Days later, a personal dispute erupted between the Berhalters and the Reynas that has put leadership of the men’s national team on indefinite hold.

After returning to the US, Berhalter spoke at a leadership conference in New York, where he shared an anecdote about an unnamed player whose behavior in Qatar had been so disruptive that the coaching staff discussed sending the player home. Media reports later identified that player as Gio Reyna, who played just 52 minutes during the tournament and later apologized to his teammates for his attitude and lack of effort.

Reyna’s parents, Claudio and Danielle, both former national team players who were upset about their son’s lack of playing time, complained to Stewart about Berhalter’s comments and, in a subsequent hour-long phone call, Stewart was told about a 1992 incident outside a nightclub in which Berhalter pushed and kicked his girlfriend, Rosalind Santana. Santana was Danielle Reyna’s teammate and roommate at North Carolina.

No police report was filed into the incident and Santana, who married Berhalter seven years later, did not seek medical attention.

After the Reynas’ phone call with Stewart, the Berhalters released a public statement in which Gregg Berhalter acknowledged and took responsibility for the physical assault. US Soccer retained Alston & Bird to conduct a more detailed investigation. The law firm interviewed 16 people and reviewed emails, text messages and other materials, but said in its report that it discovered no evidence to contradict the Berhalters’ account.

“The Investigation revealed the absence of any evidence or indication that Mr. Berhalter engaged in similar violent acts at any other time,” the report concluded. “Based on the information obtained, we conclude that the 1992 Incident was an isolated event, and we found no evidence to suggest that Mr. Berhalter engaged in similar misconduct at any other time.”

However, the report did reveal a disturbing series of years of attempts by Claudio Reyna to influence US Soccer’s treatment of his son, conduct that investigators called “inappropriate,” “bullying” and “mean.” “.

Stewart told investigators that Claudio Reyna began making complaints to him during the U-17 World Cup in 2019. Stewart said the complaints centered on his son’s lack of playing time, inadequate travel arrangements (specifically, not flying in business class) and other cases where USA soccer did not meet Claudio Reyna’s standards.

Stewart also provided contemporaneous text messages from this period, adding that “in his 20+ years ‘in this business,’ he’s never had these kinds of conversations with other players’ parents.”

While the report suggested that Claudio Reyna’s actions may have violated FIFA policies, they did not violate any US Soccer rules because there are none related to communications between coaches and parents. The federation said Monday it will address that by adopting guidelines that protect federation coaches and officials.

Hudson, who this week will announce his roster for upcoming Nations League games with Grenada and El Salvador, said he still considers 20-year-old Gio Reyna an important part of the team.

“The way I look at it is this happened. We as a staff made the decision to take action and there was a response from the player, a positive response. The camp is over,” he said. “Beyond that, I don’t see Gio’s involvement in anything. We addressed it, there was a positive response.

“I’m not condoning anything that happened, but it was more on a human level to go and check on him, like a little kid who’s been through a lot.”