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U.S. Soccer says Gregg Berhalter still a head coach candidate after interim coach named for January camp

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 3: Gregg Berhalter head coach of the United States and his bench during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Netherlands and USMNT at Khalifa International Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
With Gregg Berhalter part of a U.S. Soccer investigation, the team's coaching solution for its first games of 2023 is a temporary one. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart said Wednesday that Gregg Berhalter remains “under consideration” to continue as U.S. men’s national team head coach, pending an investigation into a decades-old domestic violence incident, and even as a rift with the family of a prominent player explodes into public view.

Berhalter, whose contract expired Dec. 31, became embroiled in a multi-pronged scandal when Danielle Reyna, the mother of 20-year-old attacker Gio Reyna, told Stewart about an early 1990s incident involving Berhalter and his now-wife, Rosalind. Danielle confirmed on Wednesday that she did so because she was “absolutely outraged and [devastated]” that Berhalter had implicitly spoken about Gio’s World Cup misbehavior at a leadership conference shortly after the USMNT’s elimination.

U.S. Soccer subsequently launched an investigation into the incident, which led Berhalter to publicly reveal details. It occurred when he and Rosalind were students at the University of North Carolina. He admitted that, a few months into their relationship, during what Gregg called a “heated argument” at a bar, he “kicked [Rosalind] in the legs."

With the investigation ongoing, U.S. Soccer on Wednesday appointed Anthony Hudson, an assistant under Berhalter, to lead the USMNT at its annual January training camp. He’ll be assisted by another Berhalter assistant, B.J. Callaghan, and the current under-20 head coach Mikey Varas.

Stewart and other U.S. Soccer leaders said Wednesday that, in addition to the investigation, they are currently reviewing the USMNT program, its performance at the World Cup, and more broadly its development over the past four years.

They claimed that they’d always known the review could extend into 2023, and that they might need a temporary coaching plan for the January camp. Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone attributed this to the "timing of the World Cup ... bumping up right against the holidays." (It is usually a summer tournament.) Its unclear if Berhalter might have remained in charge on an interim basis if not for the investigation.

Stewart, in his first public comments since the World Cup, said in a rambling opening statement that the USMNT had a “successful four years” under Berhalter. He cited the team’s identity, “our style of play and who we are and how we want to perform at a World Cup,” and said he “was pleased with that piece. So, very happy with this group after the four years.”

On a conference call that lasted roughly 35 minutes, though, Stewart, Parlow Cone and CEO J.T. Batson mostly dodged and declined to answer questions about Berhalter and the Reynas, or anything related to the investigation.

"There is lots that we still don't know," Batson said Wednesday. He later added: "The investigation is still ongoing. We are awaiting a report from Alston & Bird, [the law firm U.S. Soccer hired to conduct the investigation]. Through that, we will be able to make a decision with regards to how we progress forward."

Danielle Reyna — who knew about the domestic violence incident because she was a teammate and close friend of Rosalind at UNC — said Wednesday that Berhalter's description of it "significantly minimize[d] 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." Berhalter sought counseling. Several months later, they reconciled, got married in the late '90s, and have since raised four children.

FILE - United States head coach Gregg Berhalter follows the game during the World Cup group B soccer match between England and The United States, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The U.S. Soccer Federation revealed Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 it is investigating that men's national team cach Gregg Berhalter said was a 1991 confrontation in which he kicked the woman who later became his wife.(AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
The U.S. Soccer Federation revealed Tuesday it is investigating an early 1990s domestic violence incident involving Gregg Berhalter. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

Authorities were never told about the violent episode, and it remained a private matter as Berhalter ascended in soccer, first as a player and then as a coach.

After coaching stints in Sweden and then with the Columbus Crew in MLS, he became USMNT head coach in December 2018. His first year in charge was a transitional one. His second, 2020, was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. His third, 2021, was the most successful, with two trophies — the Gold Cup and the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League — and three straight wins over Mexico.

The fourth and final year of his contract culminated with a World Cup run that met most rational expectations. The U.S. reached the Round of 16, where it lost to the Netherlands. Berhalter won praise for his game planning and management of a young roster, but after the USMNT's elimination, his critics were as loud as ever.

Over the month since then, Berhalter and U.S. Soccer have considered a contract extension, but neither has expressed definitive interest. The federation could look elsewhere for a new head coach. Berhalter, likewise, could look to the European club game, which better suits his management style, for his next job.

Complicating their decisions is timing. European club seasons are in full swing and won't end until May. The USMNT, meanwhile, will likely use 2023 as another transitional year, whether or not Berhalter returns at the helm. Its next major competition won't come until the summer of 2024 at the earliest, and it will automatically qualify for the 2026 World Cup as a co-host. While the opportunity to lead the team to a World Cup on home soil could lure top candidates, the job isn't all that attractive in the immediate term.

Fabrizio Romano, global soccer's preeminent transfer insider, said on a CBS Sports podcast this week that there had been "conversations with agents" about the USMNT coaching gig, but that it was "an open situation."

Then the Reyna saga reignited and further complicated matters. Gio Reyna is widely considered one of the top under-21 talents in global soccer, let alone the U.S. player pool. Federation leaders declined to speak directly about Gio's future with the team on Wednesday, but when asked, Stewart said: "Every player that has a U.S. passport will be eligible to play for our U.S. national teams. So, I don't see any problems moving forward in any kind of regards to any player."

Stewart was also asked about the merits of retaining a national team coach for a second cycle, in general. He and Cone said, essentially, that any discussion about second-cycle coaches was oversimplified, and they'd consider coaches as individuals.

"What I do believe is in consistency and continuity and the way that you play, in the way that you do things, and making sure that when players come into camp, they have a recollection of what happened the last time," Stewart said. "So that consistency and continuity is really important. That doesn't necessarily always have to happen with the same coach, but it does make that process easier."

The transitional year will begin with some semblance of continuity. Hudson, who joined Berhalter's staff in 2021, will lead the team's annual January camp, which is sometimes colloquially known as "Camp Cupcake." It will feature very few, if any, of the 26 players from the World Cup roster. With the games occurring outside a FIFA international window and during European seasons, clubs are not required to release players to the USMNT. The camp is traditionally a proving ground for MLS players and youngsters — and especially this year, just one month after a World Cup.

It will conclude with friendlies against Serbia (Jan. 25) and Colombia (Jan. 28) in the Los Angeles area. The USMNT's next competitive matches are against Grenada and El Salvador in late March.

As for the timeline of the investigation, Parlow Cone said: "We don't know, because it is completely independent, and we want [the law firm] to follow the facts wherever they lead. But obviously we need to speed this along so that we can name who is going to be the head coach of the men's national team and start gearing up for World Cup '26. So we want to move quickly, but not rush."