The United States Soccer Federation’s Investigation into former head coach Gregg Berhalter is complete, with the federation finding no wrongdoing. Berhalter is still a candidate for the United States Men’s National Team head coaching position, per US Soccer.
U.S. Soccer Statement Regarding Completion of Alston & Bird Investigation Concerning Gregg Berhalter » https://t.co/3S63yuOXeP pic.twitter.com/pbPXkOy4yy
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) March 13, 2023
“In December 2022, upon learning of a serious allegation of past misconduct against then-U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter, U.S. Soccer immediately engaged a team at Alston & Bird LLP – led by Jenny Kramer, BJay Pak and Chris Marquardt – to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.
Based on facts revealed in the course of this process, U.S. Soccer asked the Alston & Bird team to expand the scope of their investigation to include potential inappropriate behavior toward U.S. Soccer officials and staff in connection with the allegation that prompted the inquiry. The investigation has now concluded, and a report detailing its findings has been delivered to U.S. Soccer. That report is available in full, with appropriate redactions made to protect staff privacy, here.
U.S. Soccer takes seriously both allegations of violence and allegations of inappropriate behavior toward our officials and staff. We appreciate Alston & Bird’s thorough and diligent work and are grateful to all who participated in this investigation.
U.S. Soccer’s process for determining who will serve as Sporting Director is ongoing, and interviews are underway. The Sporting Director will lead the process of determining who will serve as head coach of the Men’s National Team. Given the investigators’ conclusion that there is no legal impediment to employing him, Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to serve as head coach of the Men’s National Team,” said US Soccer in their statement.
Implications For Berhalter
Berhalter was under investigation for a 1992 domestic violence incident related to his now-wife Rosalind. Berhalter reportedly kicked his wife outside of a bar while the two were dating in college. Rosalind never reported the incident to legal authorities but did tell friends, including Danielle Reyna, mother of USMNT star Gio Reyna.
The situation came to light after the Reyna family reported Berhalter to former USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart. The Reynas did this after frustration stemming from Gio’s lack of playtime at the World Cup.
Alston & Bird LLP, the firm hired by the USSF to investigate Berhalter, found that there was “no legal impediment to employing” to former USMNT head coach. This means that Berhalter is likely back in the mix for the USMNT managerial position, especially given that Anthony Hudson was only named interim head coach. It seems like the USSF never really searched for a replacement, likely in that they wanted Berhalter back.
While Berhalter avoided legal implications and remains a candidate for the USMNT job, he is now subject to the court of public opinion.
In January, Berhalter released a statement just prior to the USSF’s investigation announcement. The statement detailed Berhalter’s version of events, where he admits to kicking Rosalind. Berhalter referred to the incident as “a single, isolated event over three decades ago and a terrible decision made in a bad moment by an 18-year-old.”
— Gregg Berhalter (@GreggBerhalter_) January 3, 2023
However, given Alston & Bird LLP’s report it seems like Berhalter severely downplayed the severity of the incident.
Per the report, the couple was at Players nightclub in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and were inebriated. Berhalter became jealous when Rosalind gave attention to another athlete at the club, and an argument ensued that was brought outside the club.
Berhalter “hit Rosalind in the face”. He then pushed her to the ground and kicked her twice. A bystander tackled Berhalter to the ground.
Rosalind immediately got up and headed to her dorm. She did not file a police report nor did she seek disciplinary action with the University of North Carolina, the couple’s university. No legal or university ramifications ever stemmed from the incident. Rosalind did however tell her soccer coach Anson Dorrance.
Berhalter also self-reported his actions to his own men’s team soccer coach the next day. The two coaches reportedly had a meeting regarding the incident, ultimately coming to the conclusion that no disciplinary measures were necessary.
Although Berhalter wasn’t forthcoming publicly, Alston & Bird said that he was completely upfront with them throughout their investigation.
“We were impressed with Mr. Berhalter’s candor and demeanor during the Investigation. He cooperated fully and extensively with the Investigation and our requests for interviews,” said the firm in their report.
“He appeared at the interview alone (i.e., without legal counsel or other advisors), and he answered all the questions we asked him. At the end of the interview, we concluded that Mr. Berhalter appeared to be truthful, forthcoming, and credible. He answered our questions directly, without evading or deflecting the topics we put to him; he expressed regret and shame about what he did in January 1992; and he did not try to sugarcoat his actions. He told us that he realized in 1992 that he had to own responsibility for what he did, and that, in his words, ‘I still have to own this now.’
He gave us names and contact numbers for witnesses we needed to interview to gather additional facts, and he followed up with email messages to determine if there were any other facts he could provide. As far as we could tell, Mr. Berhalter did nothing to impede our investigation or access to information.”
The Reyna Family’s Involvement
The report also made clear Claudio and Danielle Reyna’s involvement in the scandal. The public knew Danielle was the one that reported Berhalter to former USSF Sporting Director Earnie Stewart. What exactly went down was unclear until now.
As previously reported, Berhalter benched Gio because of attitude concerns. The report clarified what happened behind the scenes.
After the United States tied Wales 1-1 and Gio failed to play, Danielle Reyna refused to get back on a team bus carrying USMNT family members, particularly the Berhalter family.
“I don’t think you understand. I’m not getting back on that bus,” said Danielle.
Following the match, Danielle reportedly approached a USMNT staffer to complain about Berhalter benching her son. She threatened the coach behind his back to the staffer and continued on despite the staffer saying they understood the situation.
“Things happen, no problem,” said the staffer.
“No, it’s so much more than that. You’re talking about 40 years of history between us, for something like this to happen,” said Reyna. “Once this tournament is over, I can make one phone call and give one interview, and his cool sneakers and bounce passes will be gone.”
Danielle felt like Berhalter owed Gio playing time because they were family friends. The family grew angry after his benching. They subsequently felt Berhalter lied in his press conference about Gio’s benching. The situation spiraled, resulting in the Reynas reporting Berhalter to the USSF.
Following the Wales match, the Reynas repeatedly reached out to Stewart to complain about Berhalter. These messages would often come via text, and oftentimes were threatening.
“What a complete and utter f*cking joke. 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,” said Claudio in a text to Stewart.
Claudio Reyna has a history of using threats to defend his son. Former USMNT General Manager Brian McBride confirmed when interviewed by Alston & Bird.
“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,” said Claudio in a text to McBride following the match against Wales.
Claudio also messaged other USMNT officials repeatedly with complaints from 2016 onward. This included a 2018 email where Claudio criticized the use of female referees in Gio’s matches.
“And in all honesty [sic] can we get real and have male refs for a game like this? It’s embarrassing guys. What are we trying to prove? A game like this deserves bett[e]r attention,” said Claudio in the email.
Alston & Bird’s report ultimately concluded that the Reynas committed no criminal wrongdoing by reporting Berhalter. However, Claudio potentially broke several FIFA regulations, including the code of ethics bylaws outlining personal code of conduct, the handling of conflicts of interest, the protection of mental health and abuses of power. This may partially explain Claudio’s departure from Austin FC earlier this year.