The 2022 FIFA World Cup would see the United States compete in the world’s biggest tournament after missing out on the previous edition, with the Stars and Stripes boasting the second-youngest squad in the tournament with an average age of 25 years and 214 days. The US would narrowly advance to the Round of 16 after beating Iran 1-0, only to fall to a 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands.
Whilst the likes of Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams were suiting up for their national team, one player who saw little action was Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna. USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter did not consider him to be fully fit and prepared for such a momentous occasion, having missed a combined 50 days due to muscular issues from July 4 to the start of the World Cup.
Immediately after the elimination, an inquiry was opened into Berhalter, but the subject was not pertaining to his sporting performances as national team manager, but rather his behavior in his personal life. The case was quickly analyzed and dissected by journalists and Twitter sleuths and it was revealed that the incident in question happened between Berhalter and his future wife Rosalind Berhalter during their college years.
The Berhalters both attended university together and played football, with Gregg going on to play in Europe and later joining the behind-the-scenes setup of the US Soccer Federation. The incident in question happened in 1991, when the couple had a drunken altercation outside a bar and Gregg pushed and kicked his future wife. The person who leaked this incident is none other than Danielle Egan, the roommate of Rosalind in their college years.
If that name doesn’t ring any bells, let me call her by her current name, Danielle Reyna — mother of Giovanni Reyna and wife of former USMNT captain Claudio Reyna. The Reynas and Berhalters are not only two powerful families in US soccer, but they also go back several decades, with Gregg Berhalter serving as best man at Claudio Reyna’s wedding and Claudio serving as best man at Gregg’s.
The Berhalters came out immediately after the investigation opened and cooperated with the US federation with the report stating that the incident did indeed happen. Not only did Gregg report himself to the faculty, his coaching staff and his parents, but he also sought professional counseling, did volunteer work at a women’s prison, and ceased all contact with his partner Rosalind. They reconnected several months later at Rosalind’s behest and, as their long marriage demonstrates, they resolved the incident amongst each other and, as stated by them, have not had any other instances of this type of behavior since.
Whilst I despise domestic violence and anyone who perpetrates it, I have to say that this case is one of very few where I truly believe in a full reconciliation. The Reyna family forced the Berhalters, their old friends, to publicly relive a very traumatic incident that had long been resolved, and their modus operandi was to send a message to any future USMNT and club officials who had any impact on Gio’s future and career.
What the investigation brought to light is that this behavior is far from new, with instances as far back as 2018 becoming known. Ever since Gio was as little as 15, his parents tried to use their name and power to influence his career. His father Claudio Reyna, who earned 112 caps for the US and played alongside Berhalter at the international level, used his contacts to complain about everything from referees at the youth games Gio took part in, to coaches and managers not playing or helping his son enough.
Droves of e-mails, texts and calls have been uncovered, where the Reynas blew every little complaint by their son out of proportion. US officials were contacted about their son not flying business class, his accommodation, his breakfast, or his training regimen. At the World Cup, this behavior hit a boiling point when Berhalter told Gio that he would not be playing a starring role due to his fitness issues. The Reynas, upon getting wind of this, refused to sit and travel with the rest of the friends and family group organized by the US Federation, and Danielle would report Berhalter’s domestic violence incident to US Soccer.
Berhalter confirmed he had been the subject of a blackmailing attempt and released a statement with his wife, admitting to kicking her in the legs after a heated argument outside a bar when he was 18. Danielle Reyna admitted to trying to blackmail him, stating:
“To set the record straight, I did call (U.S. Soccer sporting director) Earnie Stewart on December 11, just after the news broke that Gregg had made negative statements about my son Gio at a leadership conference. I have known Earnie for years and consider him to be a close friend. 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.”
“Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate, and 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.”
Since then, Berhalter has been cleared after an internal investigation and deemed fit to occupy any position he would wish to interview for in the US setup, although his contract as manager expired on December 31 and has not yet been renewed with Anthony Hudson serving as the interim. As for the Reynas, Claudio has been since removed from Austin FC’s website, where he used to be listed as a technical director.
Despite struggling to consolidate a starting spot at Borussia Dortmund, Giovanni Reyna has scored five Bundesliga goals this year and started in both of the USMNT’s CONCACAF Nations League matches in March. Now, he needs to wipe away the stain of his overbearing parents, steer clear of injuries and find some consistency for club and country. At 20 years old, there’s still plenty of time for him to fulfill his potential and become a vital player for the Stars and Stripes.
By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Brad Smith/ISI Photos / Getty Images