Gregg Berhalter: “The worst part of it for me is my heart aches for my wife because it was her story to tell if she chose to or not and that’s what, just really, really saddens me.”
By Michael Lewis
In his first interview after the Reyna family scandal and controversy was revealed, Gregg Berhalter said Thursday that his heart aches for his wife and that he would like to continue coaching the U.S. men’s national team.
On Wednesday, former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna and his wife Danielle complained to U.S. Soccer about a kicking incident that occurred 31 years ago, when the USMNT coach kicked his girlfriend, Rosalind Santana, who eventually became his wife.
In a 35-minute talk on the Harvard Business Review’s The New World of Work, Berhalter said he was “saddened” what has transpired between two families that at one time had been close. Berhalter was USMNT teammates with Claudio and Danielle Reyna and Rosalind Berhalter played together for the North Babylon Strikers youth team and at the University of North Carolina.
Host Adi Ignatius called it “the ultimate soccer mom nightmare.”
“The worst part of it for me is my heart aches for my wife because it was her story to tell if she chose to or not and that’s what, just really, really saddens me,” Berhalter said. “But it’s moving forward and that’s the way we have to look at together as a family. The family has been amazing, and it’s taking it one day at a time and moving forward.”
Berhalter said he decided to go on the Zoom event regardless of what has transpired in the past few days.
“A big reason for doing the show is because I committed to doing this before all this stuff happened,” he said. “I wasn’t going to back down from it because I said I would do it.”
Things started to unravel in Qatar, when Berhalter told 20-year-old Gio Reyna, the son of Claudio and Danielle, that he would see limited action at the World Cup. His parents complained to U.S. Soccer.
Three days after the U.S. was eliminated in the knockout round of the World Cup, Berhalter told the How Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership that he was close to telling an unnamed player to leave the squad’s Qatar base and head home. The talk was supposed to be off-the-record, but the organization mistakenly put Berhalter’s comments on a transcript and it was released to the world.
Eventually, it got out that the player was Gio Reyna.
Berhalter second guessed himself for talking about that subject.
“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have told that story,” he said. “It brought too much attention to an overall shining example of team culture and teamwork. That would be something I’d go back and change for sure.”
His contract ran out on Dec. 31, and while U.S. Soccer investigates the allegations made of the incident from 31 years ago and the Reyna’s part in it, the federation has decided to use Anthony Hudson as an interim coach in a pair of international friendlies in Southern California this month.
Asked if he wanted to continue as USMNT head coach for the 2026 World Cup, Berhalter replied in the affirmative.
“It’s a fantastic group of players, a super high potential in this group,” he said. “We’re competing in the World Cup in North America in 2026. So, it would be an amazing challenge for this team. When we started in 2018, we wanted to change the way the world views American soccer. And I think when you ask around the world now about our team, the world sees us in a completely different light. But now it’s about being able to take that next step. And the next step is doing something that, no U.S. team has ever done and that’s get to the semifinals and see what happens from there. So, there’s a lot of great challenges involved. Of course, I’d like to continue in my role.”
Well, actually, the U.S. reached the semifinals of the 1930 World Cup, the first world championship. That competition had 13 teams and was nowhere near in scope of today’s World Cup.
Berhaler’s short term goal in the wake of the controversy?
“I have a strong family, and I have a very supportive family and you know what I mentioned in the beginning, it’s about my wife,” he said. “It’s about feeling for her, because again , it was her story. I feel tremendously that my professional moment had to bring this public life. But having said that, we’re strong and we keep going. That’s what it’s about for me now. It’s just how to move forward, keep moving forward and take it day by day, but it’s a strong family. We received a lot of support a lot of great messages from people that have known our family for years and just keep going.”