Gregg Berhalter discusses Reyna family rift, comments on Gio


In the wake of a controversy embroiling him and the US men’s soccer program, Gregg Berhalter said Thursday that he regrets the comments he made about 20-year-old star Gio Reyna after the US squad was eliminated from the World Cup.

Those comments — made at a leadership summit in New York three days after Berhalter’s US team lost to the Netherlands in the round of 16 — set off a series of events that spilled into the public this week and left two once-close families at odds.

“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have told that story,” Berhalter, coach of the young US squad in Qatar, said Thursday during an online event hosted by the Harvard Business Review. “It just brought too much unwarranted attention to an overall shining example of team culture and teamwork. And so that would be something that I would go back and change, for sure.”

During the Dec. 6 event in New York, Berhalter said: “we had a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field. One of 26 players, so it stood out. As a staff, we sat together for hours deliberating what we were going to do with this player. We were ready to book a plane ticket home — that’s how extreme it was.”

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Berhalter did not identify the player, but given Reyna’s lack of playing time in Qatar and the murkiness of the situation, it was clear who he was talking about. Berhalter had told the speech to about 200 guests was off the record, but his remarks were later posted online.

Irate about Berhalter’s comments, Reyna’s mother, Danielle, complained to the US Soccer Federation on Dec. 11. She also shared information about Berhalter kicking his future wife when they were students at the University of North Carolina. That prompted an investigation by the USSF, which was already in the process of evaluating Berhalter’s performance over four years and deciding whether to offer him a new contract.

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All of that information was private until Tuesday, when Berhalter and his wife, Rosalind, posted an online statement admitting to the incident and, without identifying Danielle Reyna, saying someone was trying to “take [Gregg Berhalter] down.”

On Wednesday, Danielle Reyna admitted that she had gone to the USSF. She and Rosalind Berhalter had been best friends and soccer teammates at UNC. Her husband, Hall of Famer Claudio Reyna, and Gregg Berhalter were teammates on club and high school teams in New Jersey and on two US World Cup squads.

At the beginning of the Harvard Business Review program, Berhalter was asked about his reaction to the rift with the Reynas.

“It’s sadness,” he said. “Our entire family is saddened by these events. [It’s] something we want to move forward from. … The worst part of it for me is, my heart aches for my wife, because it was her story to tell, if she chose to or not. And that’s what just really, really saddens me.”

The USSF said Wednesday that the investigation into the 1991 incident in Chapel Hill, NC, is ongoing. Berhalter remains a candidate for the head coaching job but no decisions are expected until the probe is completed and the federation’s review of Berhalter’s coaching performance is finished, sporting director Earnie Stewart said.

Berhalter’s contract expired last weekend, and with a short turnaround between the end of the World Cup and the US training camp in Southern California later this month, the USSF said it had already prepared to assign members of Berhalter’s staff to oversee the team. Assistant Anthony Hudson will be in charge for friendlies featuring MLS players against Serbia and Colombia.

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“Of course, I’d like to continue in my role,” Berhalter said. He had not said that publicly before, although last month he had started discussing his future with Stewart.

“When we started in 2018, we wanted to change the way the world views American soccer,” he said Thursday. “When you ask around the world now about our team, the world sees us in a completely different light. But now it’s about taking that next step. And the next step is doing something that no US team has ever done [since 1930]and that’s get to the semifinals and see what happens from there.”

Under Berhalter, the US team has a 37-11-12 record, beat rival Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals in 2021 and qualified for the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament. In Qatar, the Americans went 1-0-2 in group play and did not concede a goal in the run of play until the round of 16.

Berhalter and the players trumpeted their “brotherhood” and, with the exception of the issues with Gio Reyna, that seemed to ring true throughout the World Cup. The US team, which fielded the youngest starting lineup among the 32 participants, played hard and cohesively.

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In Thursday’s event, Berhalter was asked generally about building — and rebuilding — trust between a coach and players.

“Trust is something that takes a long time to build, but can go away really quickly,” he said. “You have to be consistent with who you are and you have to have clear values, and if you are, people can see that and they can trust that consistency is there. … My bond with the players is very strong and it’s about maintaining that bond.”

Berhalter, 49, said he has seen a “generational shift” in how a coach communicates with players.

“The players need more communication, more information,” he said. “There’s a general feeling of wanting to be tied into this common cause, this common goal, which is completely normal. I’d much rather be able to collaborate with the players than just stick the staff here, the players there.

“When I was a player, it was a good thing not to talk to the coach. If you weren’t talking to a coach, you were doing something right. And now it’s completely different. I like where it’s gone, because I believe leaders have the responsibility to communicate. They have the responsibility to take feedback. And that’s the sign of good leadership, to listen and include people.”

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