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An ugly rift between two U.S. soccer families bursts into public

U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter played midfielder Giovanni Reyna sparingly during the World Cup. (Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Sports)
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The mother of U.S. soccer player Gio Reyna said Wednesday that she shared information with the U.S. Soccer Federation about World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter kicking his future wife more than 31 years ago — a disclosure that prompted an investigation last month and elicited a claim by Berhalter on Tuesday that he was being blackmailed.

Danielle Reyna said in a statement issued by her son’s agent that she was upset about Berhalter’s comments concerning Gio Reyna following the U.S. team’s elimination from the tournament in Qatar. Gio Reyna played sparingly, and upon returning stateside, Berhalter implied in comments in New York that he almost sent Reyna home because he had not given full effort in the days before the World Cup.

Subsequently, Danielle Reyna said she contacted USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart. “I wanted to let him know that I was absolutely outraged and [devastated] that Gio had been put in such a terrible position, and that I felt very personally betrayed by the actions of someone my family had considered a friend for decades.”

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

She also said Berhalter’s statements Tuesday about kicking his future wife when they were freshmen at the University of North Carolina “significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question.”

Danielle (Egan) Reyna and Rosalind (Santana) Berhalter were UNC roommates and soccer teammates. In her statement, Reyna said Berhalter was her “best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. It took a long time for me to forgive and accept Gregg afterward, but I worked hard to give him grace, and ultimately made both of them and their kids a huge part of my family’s life. I would have wanted and expected him to give the same grace to Gio. This is why the current situation is so very hurtful and hard.”

Danielle Reyna’s husband, Claudio, is a former U.S. national team captain who was Berhalter’s teammate for club and high school teams in New Jersey and on two World Cup squads. They had remained close friends for years, and Reyna was Berhalter’s best man at his wedding.

In a statement of his own Wednesday, Claudio Reyna said: “I support my wife, Danielle, and her statement. I too was upset by Gregg’s comments about Gio after the U.S. was out of the World Cup, and I also appealed to Earnie Stewart on December 11 asking him to prevent any additional comments.”

The bizarre turn comes as the USSF is deciding whether to sign Berhalter to a new contract. His previous deal expired last weekend. On Wednesday, with the USSF continuing both to investigate abuse allegations directed at Berhalter and evaluate the program heading into a new World Cup cycle, the federation announced assistant Anthony Hudson will oversee the squad at a training camp this month in the Los Angeles area that includes friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

Because the camp will not take place during an official FIFA window, Gio Reyna and other U.S. regulars from in-season European clubs are not available for selection. Most, if not all, of the call-ups will come from MLS teams, which are starting preseason soon.

USSF executives were made available in a conference call with reporters Wednesday but offered few details about the probe, the review of the team or the coaching situation, citing the ongoing investigation.

Stewart, a former World Cup teammate of both Berhalter and Reyna, said Berhalter is “still under consideration” to return as coach.

He also said he was “very happy with this group after the four years [under Berhalter], but you’re always looking forward to 2026.”

Asked whether Berhalter staying on would impact Gio Reyna’s participation in future camps, Stewart said, “I don’t see any problems moving forward in regards to any player when it comes to our national team.”

Gio Reyna, an attacker for German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, has not commented on the situation. The next opportunity for the full U.S. squad to assemble is late March for Concacaf Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvador.

Stewart called the rift between Berhalter and Reyna “not a fun period.”

USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone — who last year oversaw the resolution of a long-standing labor dispute between the federation and the women’s national team — echoed Stewart’s description.

“This is not a positive time for soccer in this country and for our men’s national team,” she said. “And it’s a tough time for the families involved. I’m just hopeful that we can find resolution to this quickly and move forward with our men’s team as well as for U.S. Soccer in general.”

The latest twists came one day after Berhalter and his wife issued a statement admitting he kicked her in the legs in 1991. They have been married for 25 years and have four children. In the statement, they said an individual was trying to “take him down” as the U.S. coach.

Through a personal spokesman, Berhalter said he did not want to comment further.

The USSF followed with a statement that, upon learning of the allegation, it hired a law firm to investigate. “U.S. Soccer condemns violence of any kind and takes such allegations very seriously,” the federation said.

The USSF also said that, since learning of the allegations against Berhalter, “potential inappropriate behavior” had been directed toward “multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization.” The USSF said it expanded its investigation to include those allegations.

Claudio Reyna, who is sporting director of MLS’s Austin FC, denied being involved in inappropriate behavior targeting Berhalter or members of the staff.

“While in Qatar, I shared my frustrations about my son’s World Cup experience with a number of close friends, Earnie and [U.S. team GM] Brian McBride among them. However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so,” he said.

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Danielle Reyna said she did call Stewart last month after Berhalter’s comments in New York became public.

“I told Earnie that I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age,” she said in the statement.

“Many people were trashing Gio on social media due to Gregg’s comments, and I didn’t know when or if this would stop. I just wanted Earnie to help make sure that there would be no further unwarranted attacks on my son. I thought our conversation would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation. …”

“I want to be very clear that I did not ask for Gregg to be fired, I did not make any threats, and I don’t know anything about any blackmail attempts. … 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.”