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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Investigators clear former U.S. soccer coach in 1992 incident

USA coach Gregg Berhalter speaks during a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha on December 2, 2022, on the eve of the USA’s World Cup soccer match against the Netherlands.

By Julie Macur

Gregg Berhalter, the men’s national soccer team coach at last year’s World Cup, is eligible to return for the next World Cup cycle after investigators looking into his personal conduct cleared him to remain a candidate for the job, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Monday.

“There is no basis to conclude that employing Mr. Berhalter would create legal risks for an organization,” investigators said in a report made public Monday.

The federation three months ago hired investigators at the Atlanta-based law firm Alston & Bird to look into an incident involving Berhalter kicking his wife, Rosalind, in front of a bar when they were dating as students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1992. No police report was filed for that incident.

The investigators said they were “impressed with Mr. Berhalter’s candor and demeanor” during the inquiry and found no discrepancies between Gregg and Rosalind Berhalter’s description of the incident, with Gregg Berhalter saying he reported it to his college coach and also sought counseling for the way he acted. The two had been drunk when they left the bar arguing, and Rosalind hit Gregg in the face. Gregg then pushed her down and kicked her twice in the upper leg, the report said.

Both Berhalters, in a statement made public in January, acknowledged what happened and said they have been happily married for 25 years.

The report also said, based on interviews and research, that there was no reason to believe that Berhalter — whose contract with U.S. Soccer expired at the end of 2022 — ever acted aggressively toward his wife in the past 31 years.

“The investigation revealed no evidence to suggest that he had engaged in violence against another person at any time prior or thereafter,” the report said, calling the 1992 incident “an isolated event.”

In a statement Monday, Gregg Berhalter said: “Rosalind and I respect the process that U.S. Soccer went through. We are grateful that it is concluded and look forward to what’s next.”

The report concludes a bizarre turn of events surrounding the World Cup involving Claudio and Danielle Reyna, the parents of U.S. forward Gio Reyna. The Reynas complained to U.S. Soccer about Gio’s playing time in the tournament and suggested “they knew damaging information about Mr. Berhalter that U.S. Soccer officials did not know.”

The Berhalters and Reynas had been close friends for decades, and Rosalind and Danielle had been college soccer teammates. But the Reynas became upset after hearing Berhalter’s public comments about an unnamed player at the World Cup who “was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field” and who the staff considered sending home. The player was Gio Reyna, and the Reynas vented to U.S. Soccer about what Berhalter had said, with Danielle Reyna telling the federation about the 1992 incident.

The Reynas told U.S. Soccer about the incident, the report said, because they didn’t want the federation to renew Berhalter’s contract. “The information was disclosed at a time when it would be expected to discourage or otherwise influence the organization from offering a contract extension to Mr. Berhalter,” the report said.

The report said Danielle Reyna first denied to investigators that she told the U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart about the kicking incident, but then called back to say she indeed had. Compared to how open and willing the Berhalters had been in the inquiry, the report said, the Reynas were much less cooperative.

The Reynas could not immediately be reached for comment.

The investigative report details some of the Reynas’ complaints to U.S. Soccer over the years, specifically calling out Claudio Reyna’s yearslong outreach to the federation on behalf of his children, especially Gio.

Claudio Reyna expressed his dissatisfaction with refereeing at the youth club level of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, travel arrangements at the U-17 World Cup (he wanted business class) and Gio’s playing time on the national team, according to the report. One person interviewed by investigators referred to Reyna’s interactions with U.S. Soccer about his sons as “inappropriate,” “bullying” and “mean spirited.” Another, whose name was also redacted, said, “Mr. Reyna expected Gio Reyna to be treated better than other players.”

The report also said that the communications between the Reynas and U.S. Soccer didn’t violate any federation laws or policy, but it did not say whether the Reynas violated FIFA’s code of ethics.

In a statement, U.S. Soccer noted that the report said that there is “a need to revisit U.S. Soccer’s policies concerning appropriate parental conduct and communications with the staff at the National Team level.”

The federation went on to say: “We will be updating those policies as we continue to work to ensure safe environments for all participants in our game.”

Whether Berhalter will be in charge of the men’s national team when those policies are put in place is still unknown.

Stewart resigned in January amid the Reyna-Berhalter situation and took a job with a Dutch club team, and U.S. Soccer is looking for his replacement. The new sporting director will likely be in charge of hiring the new men’s national team coach.

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