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Gio Reyna, Gregg Berhalter at the center of explosive USMNT drama

Why, why, why?

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New York City Training Session Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

USA Soccer finds itself embroiled in an explosive drama featuring (former?) men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter, who led the side into the FIFA 2022 Men’s World Cup, and the family of Gio Reyna, the talented 20-year-old forward who currently plays for Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga rivals, Borussia Dortmund.

It began with Berhalter letting slip, apparently unwittingly, that the young Reyna had been subject to team discipline in Qatar and nearly sent home mid-tournament. Things kicked up several notches when this week Berhalter posted an extraordinary statement to Twitter alleging an apparent blackmail attempt using information about an incident from his past:

That incident, which Berhalter described further in his statement, involved him kicking a woman he was dating at the time after an argument; that woman is now his wife.

On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Reyna’s parents were both involved — and additionally that “multiple sources” had told ESPN Claudio Reyna “threatened” to bring up Berhalter’s past.

Both of Reyna’s parents made statements to The Athletic clarifying their position and expressing regret at how events have transpired.

Danielle Reyna said that Berhalter’s account “significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question.” She added: “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 declared: “While in Qatar, I shared my frustrations about my son’s World Cup experience with a number of close friends, [US Soccer sporting director] Earnie [Stewart] and Brian McBride among them. However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so.”

USA Soccer is investigating the Berhalter incident and has in the meantime handed the reigns over to current men’s national team assistant Anthony Hudson for the January camp; Berhalter’s contract had expired at the end of December.

Instant reactions

This is an incredibly messy saga — hard to watch, hard to turn away from. Let’s steer it away from the specifics of the involved parties. How Rosalind Berhalter reconciled with Gregg is her own business and she doesn’t need nor deserve to be the subject of any public scrutiny or speculation.

Domestic violence and intimate partner violence are, on their own, very serious matters and the WHO has some good reading on this. This isn’t a commentary on Gregg, to be clear: any opportunity to emphasize that we as a society have work to do in this regard should be taken.

Let this be a reminder of how common it is, especially for women, to experience DV/IPV in some form (whether physical or emotional) so that we may better do the work of preventing it at the outset. That work includes promoting awareness — especially of the norms from which such behaviors arise; Box 2 in the WHO article. It also includes calling out bad behavior in others and doing accounting and making amends for any failings of our own — rather than assuming, say, that it’s impossible to have ever been complicit in a culture where DV/IPV is rife without personally resorting to outright physical violence.

But one thing it probably doesn’t include is dredging up stories that aren’t yours to tell in order to address unrelated grievances.

From a sporting perspective, where do the USMNT, and BVB’s Reyna, go from here? The January camp is soon to start and the next Men’s World Cup will be hosted in part by the United States. Gio Reyna himself didn’t necessarily ask to be in the middle of all this, at least not in quite this way, but here we are. The road back would seem to be as complicated as it is long.

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