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USMNT’s Gregg Berhalter details 1991 incident with now-wife, alleges blackmail

U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter and his players wave to fans after a loss to the Netherlands in the World Cup's round of 16 last month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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U.S. World Cup Coach Gregg Berhalter said Tuesday that, when he was 18, he kicked his future wife in the legs — an incident he decided to disclose publicly after an unidentified individual threatened to use that information to “take him down” as the men’s national team coach, he said.

“There are zero excuses for my actions that night,” read a statement on a newly created Twitter account with his name. “It was a shameful moment and one that I regret to this day.”

The statement was signed by Berhalter and his wife of 25 years, Rosalind. Its authenticity was verified by the couple’s spokesman.

The U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body, said in a statement that, upon learning of the allegation Dec. 11, it hired a law firm to investigate. That probe is ongoing, the USSF added.

“U.S. Soccer condemns violence of any kind and takes such allegations very seriously,” the statement said.

The USSF also said that, since learning of the allegations against Berhalter, “potential inappropriate behavior” has been directed toward “multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization.” The USSF said it has expanded its investigation to include those allegations. A federation spokesman said he did not want to comment.

Through a spokesman, Berhalter said he and his wife did not want to comment further.

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The bizarre developments come as the USSF is conducting a post-World Cup review of the program and deciding whether to retain Berhalter, whose previous deal expired last week.

Berhalter learned of the allegation several weeks ago during a meeting about his future with USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart, people close to the situation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.

The USSF is slated to announce this week who will oversee a two-week training camp this month. Until the investigation concludes and his long-term future with the program is determined, Berhalter is not expected to oversee friendlies against Serbia on Jan. 25 in Los Angeles and against Colombia on Jan. 28 in Carson, Calif.

Berhalter, 49, has guided the national team since late 2018 and last month led the Americans to the World Cup’s round of 16. Since the 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands, “an individual contacted U.S. Soccer saying they had information about me that would ‘take me down’ — an apparent effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer,” the Berhalters’ statement said.

“My wife Rosalind and I want to clearly and directly share the truth,” the statement continued.

They were married Dec. 31, 1997, and have four children. They both played soccer at the University of North Carolina. They began dating during their freshman year of 1991-92 when the incident occurred near campus.

“While out drinking at a local bar, Rosalind and I had a heated argument that continued outside,” their statement said. “It became physical and I kicked her in the legs.”

Law enforcement authorities were not involved and Berhalter sought out counseling, the statement said. Seven months later, they reconciled, they said.

“It was a single, isolated event over three decades ago and a terrible decision made in a bad moment by an 18-year-old,” the statement said. “Thankfully Rosalind forgave me. The intention of this statement is to provide transparency and to reinforce a single bad decision made by a teenager does not necessarily define him for the rest of his life. We will not hide from this. We didn’t then, and we won’t now.”

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Berhalter has received praise and criticism during his tenure as national team coach. The Americans won two regional trophies in 2021, beating rival Mexico both times, and qualified for the World Cup in Qatar after missing the 2018 tournament in Russia.

During the World Cup, Berhalter came under fire for his handling of 20-year-old star Gio Reyna, who played sparingly. Reyna is the son of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, Berhalter’s teammate in high school and with the national team. Rosalind Berhalter and Claudio Reyna’s wife, Danielle, were UNC teammates.

Before the round-of-16 match, former U.S. star Eric Wynalda suggested there was “a rift” between Berhalter and the younger Reyna. Wynalda later recanted.

During a speech Dec. 6 in New York, three days after the Americans were eliminated, Berhalter said “we had a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field” and he had been close to sending the player home. He did not identify Reyna, but multiple people familiar with the situation said Reyna was that player.

In an Instagram post two days later, Reyna apologized to his teammates and coaches but added that he was “extremely surprised that anyone on the national team’s staff would contribute” to ongoing coverage of the matter and that Berhalter “has always said that issues that arise with the team will stay ‘in house.’ ”