Claudio and Danielle Reyna, the parents of U.S. men's national team star Gio Reyna and longtime friends of USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, told U.S. Soccer about a decades-old domestic violence incident involving Berhalter amid friction between Gio and Berhalter during the 2022 World Cup, according to Wednesday reports and subsequent statements from the Reynas.
U.S. Soccer revealed Tuesday that it was investigating the incident, and Berhalter revealed details because, he said, an individual had brought them to U.S. Soccer in an effort to "take me down."
That individual was one of the Reynas. ESPN reported that Claudio "sent multiple messages to U.S. Soccer executives" threatening to reveal the details after Berhalter told Gio, a 20-year-old attacking midfielder, that he would have a limited on-field role at the World Cup.
Danielle Reyna confirmed in a Wednesday statement to multiple media outlets that she reported the early-1990s incident to U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart on Dec. 11, shortly after Berhalter's comments about unacceptable behavior from a then-unnamed USMNT player — reportedly Gio — were mistakenly made public.
Berhalter, in a Tuesday statement that did not name the Reynas, called all of this “an apparent attempt to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer.”
Berhalter admitted that, a few months into his relationship with his then-girlfriend, Rosalind, during what Berhalter called a “heated argument” at a bar, he “kicked her in the legs." They were students and soccer players at the University of North Carolina at the time. One of Rosalind's teammates and best friends at UNC was Danielle Egan, who years later would marry Claudio Reyna. (Danielle said Wednesday that Berhalter's description of the incident "significantly minimize[s] the abuse on the night in question." A spokesperson for Berhalter said that he had no further comment.)
Berhalter said in his Tuesday statement that he "immediately apologized to Rosalind, but understandably, she wanted nothing to do with me. I told my parents, my family, and friends what happened because I wanted to take full responsibility for my behavior. Rosalind also informed her parents, family and friends." They later reconciled, got married in the late '90s, and have since raised four children.
Gregg Berhalter also had an extremely close friendship with Claudio Reyna dating back to their childhoods in New Jersey. They met when Berhalter joined a club team coached by Claudio's father. They played together on that team, Union County SC, and traveled the country and the world together. They later went to St. Benedict's together and played high school soccer together. They went on to play at World Cups together with the U.S. men's national team, which Claudio captained.
In a 2019 interview with Yahoo Sports, Claudio said that the two remained "really good friends." In fact, according to the USMNT players association website, Claudio had been Berhalter's best man at Gregg and Rosalind's wedding. Claudio spoke highly of Gregg as recently as early 2022.
Danielle, in her Wednesday statement, also called Berhalter "someone my family had considered a friend for decades." But she said that she "felt very personally betrayed" when Berhalter, at an early-December leadership conference that he thought was "off the record," spoke openly about how he almost sent Gio Reyna home from the World Cup. Berhalter did not name Gio, but multiple reports soon confirmed that Gio was the player whom Berhalter had described. Gio later confirmed some of the details in a statement on Instagram.
Danielle said Wednesday that she "was absolutely outraged and [devastated] that Gio had been put in such a terrible position," and so she spoke with Stewart, Berhalter's boss. Danielle's statement 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. Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. 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.
“At the time I called Earnie, many people were trashing Gio on social media due to Gregg’s comments, and I didn’t know when or if this would stop. I just wanted Earnie to help make sure that there would be no further unwarranted attacks on my son. I thought our conversation would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation. I’m not criticizing Earnie here. I very much commend the recent efforts by U.S. Soccer to address abuse of women players, and I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared. But 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. I did not communicate with anyone in U.S. Soccer about this matter before December 11, and no one else in my family has made any statements to U.S. Soccer regarding Gregg’s past at all.
“I’m sorry that this information became public, and I regret that I played a role in something that could reopen wounds from the past.”
Claudio Reyna, in a corresponding statement, said that he supported Danielle and her statement. Claudio, who went on to work at U.S. Soccer after a Hall of Fame playing career, and who is now the sporting director at MLS club Austin FC, added in his 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.
“While in Qatar, I shared my frustrations about my son’s World Cup experience with a number of close friends, Earnie and Brian McBride among them. However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so.”
Berhalter is currently out of contract with U.S. Soccer. He is still in the mix to remain USMNT head coach, pending the investigation and what the federation has called a separate review of the program.
With the investigation ongoing and this drama swirling, U.S. Soccer said that Anthony Hudson, one of Berhalter's assistants at the World Cup, would take charge of the team for its January training camp.