Smoking remains of U.S. Soccer are left in aftermath of Reyna of Terror | Michael Arace

The Reyna of terror is over, and we can only hope the best for onetime USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, the victim of bilious former friends, and for U.S. star Gio Reyna, who was collateral damage in the spiteful scheming of his parents. We might also hope that U.S. Soccer, the devil’s workshop for this sordid mess, is sufficiently cleaned.

To its credit, U.S. Soccer opted for a sun-lit disinfection and released the findings of an investigation into a 1992 incident of domestic violence involving Berhalter and his then-girlfriend and future-wife, Rosalind.

The federation hired a law firm to investigate after Reyna’s parents, Claudio and Danielle – who were angry over the way their son was used at the World Cup in November and over something Berhalter said at a conference in December – dredged up the past in order to oust Berhalter from his job.

Gregg Berhalter, who led the United States in the 2022 World Cup, saw his contract expire at the end of the calendar year.
Gregg Berhalter, who led the United States in the 2022 World Cup, saw his contract expire at the end of the calendar year.

A brief summary of the investigation’s findings:

— Berhalter and his wife accurately portrayed the nature of the argument, the instance of violence and the aftermath. In the midst of an argument outside of a college bar near the University of North Carolina, Berhalter, then 18 years old, reacted to a slap in the face by pushing down Rosalind and kicking her twice. She was uninjured. He sought counseling and did volunteer work at a women’s prison.

— The couple reconciled after seven months. They have been married for 25 years and have four children together. Since the 1992 incident, Berhalter has never caused his wife, or anyone else, to fear physical violence in his presence.

— Claudio and Danielle Reyna’s purpose in alerting the federation to the 1992 incident was to influence U.S. Soccer officials, who were in the process of deciding whether to renew Berhalter’s contract. (The contract reached term at the end of the calendar year.)

— Claudio and Danielle Reyna have a history, dating back to at least 2016 of meddling with the federation over the handling of their children, Gio in particular.

— Claudio Reyna, who has worked for two MLS teams, may have violated FIFA rules and regulations governing the conduct of a club “official.”

The Berhalters cooperated with the investigation. Danielle Reyna had two conversations with investigators and, though the interviews were brief, her story evolved. Claudio Reyna, who recently resigned as sporting director for Austin FC and slid into a job as an advisor for the team, did not speak with investigators despite many attempts to arrange an interview.

The Berhalters and Reynas were friends for decades. Gregg and Claudio grew up together and were teammates at the youth level and as players with the national team. Claudio is considered one of the best USMNT players ever. Rosalind and Danielle were college teammates and roommates at North Carolina.

The friendship was shattered when Berhalter did not play Gio Reyna in the U.S.’s first World Cup game, against Wales, in November. This was after Berhalter and his USMNT staff, reacting to Gio Reyna’s team-last attitude and lack of effort, considered sending the kid home from Qatar. It’s all in the report.

Claudio and Danielle Reyna were furious. As was their habit, they shot off angry (and, at times, profanity-laced) texts to federation officials.

Danielle Reyna: “Once this tournament is over, I can make one phone call and give one interview, and his cool sneakers and bounce pass will be gone.”

Claudio Reyna: “You guys don’t even know what we know about Gregg.”

Claudio again: “What a complete and utter joke. Our family is disgusted in case you were wondering. Disgusted at how a coach is allowed to never be challenged and do whatever he wants.”

In the report, Claudio Reyna is also cited as authoring an email about a female referee who worked one of his son’s games in 2018: “Can we get real and have male refs for a game like this. It’s embarrassing guys. What are we trying to prove.”

Claudio Reyna, left, and Gregg Berhalter, during training camp in 2002 ahead of the World Cup.
Claudio Reyna, left, and Gregg Berhalter, during training camp in 2002 ahead of the World Cup.

Reyna's parents got what they wanted, as U.S. Soccer did not renew Berhalter’s contract. Sporting director Earnie Stewart and general manager Brian McBride left the federation earlier this year. Stewart went back to the Netherlands to work for a club team. McBride said he had months before made up his mind to move on to his next challenge. They got a lot of pings from Claudio Reyna, their former teammate.

In the wake of the investigation, the federation says that Berhalter remains a candidate for the USMNT job – probably because the law firm that did the investigating found no reason to say otherwise. For his part, and probably for legal reasons, Berhalter does not dismiss the possibility of a return.

It will be a new sporting director, Stewart’s replacement, who will make that decision, and the federation is slow-walking the process. Maybe that's for the best. It’s a huge decision. Because the U.S., Canada and Mexico are the co-hosts for the 2026 World Cup, the upcoming cycle is seen as a watershed moment for the game in America and a new generation of talent has the ability to capture the imagination of new fans. U.S. Soccer must deliver.

Berhalter, who regularly fielded the youngest national team in the world and who imbued it with a tactical acumen heretofore unseen in America, had a higher winning percentage (.717) with teams that had a higher goals-per-game rate (1.97) and a better goals-against average (0.57) than any USMNT coach that preceded him. After the disaster of 2017, he rebuilt the program, qualified for the World Cup and got out of group stage. Not enough?

Berhalter formerly coached the Columbus Crew. His best work with the national team had to do with knitting together a team and changing the culture. I’ve long thought that his tenure would stretch through the next cycle, that his job was half-done and he was prepared to finish it. Of course, I am biased because I have a long and solid professional relationship with the man and I respect him. There are soccer people, many of them intelligent, who think that his four-year stint had run its natural course.

In any case, Gio Reyna’s parents accelerated the process with napalm. And so here we are: Danielle Reyna is a vindictive soccer-mom monster; Claudio Reyna is radioactive as an MLS executive (although Anthony Precourt might just love the glow); U.S. Soccer is dallying with headhunting firm and looking to completely retool its on-field operations; and Berhalter is adrift, floating about Europe, networking for opportunities.

One can only hope that Berhalter’s name has been properly cleared by the Atlanta law firm of Alston & Bird, which conducted the federation’s investigation and is the only party who will profit from all of this. Berhalter made an egregious mistake when he was 18, and he has been atoning for three decades. He atones yet.

United States soccer player Gio Reyna is 20 years old and playing for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga.
United States soccer player Gio Reyna is 20 years old and playing for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga.

And then there is Gio Reyna, who is 20 years old and playing for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga. His parents have a history, only partially recorded by an Atlanta law firm, of helicoptering like Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now." He himself has done some stupid things, which should be forgiven, for he is young, and he has had much thrust upon him. It ain't easy being Gio, and it's getting more difficult.

Gio Reyna is the future. He is, by acclaim, the greatest soccer talent that has ever been produced in this country. I’ve never had a doubt that, if it came time for U.S. Soccer to choose between Berhalter and Gio Reyna, Berhalter had no shot. Mummy and Daddy made sure of that, and now, what does Gio do? It depends on him and his handlers.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Caught in the middle of USMNT mess is Gio Reyna, America's soccer star