An ugly intrigue has got the US Soccer Association in trouble and left the men's national team without a coach. National coach Gregg Berhalter, his wife Rosalind, international Giovanni Reyna and his parents Claudio and Danielle Reyna are involved in the drama, which has traits of a soap opera.
The full extent of the story became known after Berhalter and his wife Rosalind published a detailed statement on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon in which they made serious allegations against one person. They contacted the US association because they had information about Berhalter that should lead to his dismissal.
Berhalter provided the relevant information at the same time. He reports in detail about an incident from 1991 when he kicked his future wife in the legs during a heated argument in front of a student bar ("It became physical and I kicked her in the legs."). "No excuse" for his behavior back then, writes Berhalter. Both he and his partner informed their friends and parents about the incident, which was not reported. Berhalter, who was 18 at the time, then sought professional help. Something similar never happened to him again. Seven months later, Rosalind contacted him and they got back together after a discussion. They have been married for 25 years.
Minutes later, the US association also released a vague statement saying that a law firm was investigating the allegations against Berhalter. The association refrained from specifically naming the allegations. At the same time, he said that independently of this, the investigation had revealed that there had been inappropriate behavior towards members of the association by some people outside.
An astonished public learned on Wednesday why the story got rolling at all. The person who informed the US federation's sporting director about the long-ago incident was Danielle Reyna, mother of US international and BVB professional Giovanni "Gio" Reyna. Reyna's father Claudio (Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg) was also involved, as both now admitted.
The background: Gio Reyna was informed by Berhalter before the World Cup that he would not get very many playing times, even though he is one of the most talented internationals in the country. Reyna apparently reacted inappropriately and almost got kicked out of the squad. Berhalter later spoke at a press conference about a problematic professional, but without naming a name. Nevertheless, it quickly became clear that it was Gio Renya. The player himself released a statement a day later admitting he hadn't behaved well. At the same time, he was disappointed that he would hardly get any operational time.
For Danielle Reyna, Berhalter's statements at the press conference were too much. She was "out of her mind and devastated," she told ESPN. That's why she informed the US sports director on the same day about Berhalter's outbreak of violence 31 years ago. She didn't demand his release, she just wanted to protect her son. Husband Claudio Reyna admitted to having complained several times to officials at the federation during the World Cup that his son was not playing.
In order to understand the full scope of the conflict, you have to know that everyone involved knows each other well. Gio's father Claudio was one of the best footballers America has ever had. He and Berhalter have known each other since they were kids, they played soccer together on the high school team and later at the 2002 and 2006 World Championships. So did Danielle Reyna and Rosalind Berhalter, who lived together and on the North Carolina varsity team played together.
That's why the Reynas are so well informed about the incident from 30 years ago. Danielle Reyna emphasized on Wednesday: "Without going into detail, yesterday's statements (Berhalter about the outbreak of violence, editor's note) seriously downplay the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed."
It took her a long time to forgive Berhalter, "and eventually made both of them and their children an important part of my family life," Reyna said. She would have wished and expected Berhalter to show the same mercy to Gio.
Sources: DPA, "The New York Times", "ESPN", "Spiegel"