Stejskal: Some escape blame for USMNT’s recent shocking, decisive play

This should be an exciting, anticipated moment for the US Men’s National Team. Young players performed admirably at the World Cup in Qatar and could take a step forward in 2026 when the U.S. co-hosts with Canada and Mexico.

But instead of looking ahead in anticipation, we are trapped in Shakespeare’s play, and the future is uncertain.

Who needs a quick recap: At the World Cup in Qatar, talented attacker Gio Reina Showed an appalling lack of effort in training, which frustrated his teammates and coaches and contributed to his lower-than-expected playing time in the tournament. Reyna eventually apologized to the group and by all accounts, the team moved on.

Days after America’s elimination, head coach Greg Berhalter detailed the saga at a leadership conference in New York City. Berhalter’s comments were supposed to be off the record and he never mentioned Reyna by name, but they were published in a newsletter after the incident. And to anyone paying attention, it was clear who he was referring to.

Gio’s parents, Claudio and Daniel Reyna, worried that their son’s unprofessionalism was being aired publicly, called U.S. Soccer sporting director Ernie Stewart to voice their anger. Danielle told her about a 1991 domestic violence incident in which Greg Berhalter kicked his now-wife Rosalind while they were dating at the University of North Carolina.

“I told Arnie that I thought it was particularly unfair that Gio… was still being dragged through the mud when Greg was apologizing for doing something so bad at the same age,” she said in a statement.

Stewart then took the allegations to his superiors at US Soccer, who hired an outside law firm to investigate further. And before long everything became public knowledge.

Topping it all off is how interconnected all these parties are. Greg Berhalter and Claudio Reyna became teammates playing on a youth team in Northern New Jersey coached by Claudio’s father. They went to high school together and were teammates with the U.S. in two World Cups. Rosalind Berhalter and Danielle Reyna were best friends, roommates and soccer teammates at UNC. They kept their family close for the next 30 years. Stewart also has a long history with both families, playing in three World Cups with Claudio Reina and one with Greg Berhalter.

Except for Rosalind Berhalter and Stewart, everyone involved did an embarrassing job.

The lack of effort was entirely unbecoming of 20-year-old Gio Reina, whose lengthy fit about not starting the opener against Wales was insulting to his team-mates, coaches and players who were narrowly missed out on the final roster.

Speaking about the situation to a room full of strangers was stupid of Greg Berhalter. Regardless of the ground rules of the event, the head coach of the U.S. national team should know that divulging inside-the-locker-room details in any unfamiliar setting can lead to leaks.

It should go without saying that Greg Berhalter’s abuse of Rosalind was reprehensible. He must always bear the shock of the moment; He has to live with this shame for the rest of his life. Knowledge of Rosalind’s abuse should play a role in whether US Soccer retains the 18-year-old as head coach. The ongoing investigation will also look into what the federation knew about the incident when Berhalter was first hired in December 2018. At the time, Berhalter’s brother Jay was a high-ranking executive in the USSF, although Stewart was most directly responsible for the hire.

Even the older Renas should feel ashamed. Claudio Reyna admitted in a statement released earlier this month that he had been messaging Stewart and USMNT GM Brian McBride, another former U.S. teammate of his and Berhalter’s, about his frustrations with Ziyo’s lack of playing time while in Qatar. That would be inappropriate behavior for a parent of an under-12 player. For a former USMNT captain and current MLS sporting director whose son was at the World Cup at the time, it was extremely unpleasant.

Those kinds of actions seem to be part of the pattern for Reyna, as first reported by Fox Sports Confirmed by sources last Thursday and later athleticEarlier, he tried to influence then US U-17 national team head coach Raphael Vicky regarding the treatment of Gio during the 2019 U-17 World Cup.

Of course, none of them are as bad as Daniel Reyna in which Berhalter details the incident where Rosalind kicked Stewart. The issue there is not with the disclosure of the abuse, but how Daniel Reyna disclosed it: without Rosalind’s consent.

In her statement, Daniels said she did not tell Stewart about the abuse, out of concern for Rosalind, her friend of more than 30 years. She didn’t tell Stewart because she felt Gregg was morally unfit to coach the USMNT. By her own admission, she didn’t even know tomorrow that what she said could advance the investigation.

It didn’t matter to him that it wasn’t his story to share. It didn’t matter that she was once close friends with Rosalind. It didn’t matter that the Berhalters dealt with the incident, reconciled, and seem to have had a long, happy and fruitful marriage. The only thing for Danielle was that Greg made some comments about his son’s bad behavior during the World Cup. That was enough for him to pull another family out of the mud. What she did was spiteful, vindictive and completely blown out of proportion.

Read parts of Danielle’s statement as if she feels that her family members are the victims. That’s ridiculous. The only victims here are Rosalind Berhalter and her children, who have to live through this uncomfortable experience under some incredibly bright lights.

For others, the next period could be decisive, as the independent investigation commissioned by U.S. Soccer is still open.

Berhalter wants to stay on as the U.S. head coach, and Stewart told reporters he was still being considered, but there were legitimate questions about whether he should be retained before the drama became public. The 2022 World Cup cycle was a solid but not overwhelming success on the field and saw some missteps along the way.

Players who have been asked about the scandal in the past two weeks have generally been supportive of Berhalter, but it’s possible, like American legend DaMarcus Beasley. Mentioned on HBO Max’s post-game show After the U.S. women’s 4-0 win over New Zealand on Tuesday, her comments at a leadership conference hurt her standing in the locker room. US Soccer may determine that bringing Berhalter back would be too problematic, especially if the confederation aims to focus entirely on building positive momentum ahead of 2026.

However, realistic options for Berhalter to take may be rare. For one thing, the USMNT’s training until 2026 is likely to be very slow. As a host nation, there is no qualification on tap for the US and no guarantee that the Americans will enter the 2024 Copa America. The only meaningful games for the U.S. men between now and the start of the next World Cup may be against regional competition in the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup. For big-time, world-class managers, those tournaments probably won’t be all that attractive. And as we all know, US Soccer, which has and continues to pay a mountain of legal fees for various lawsuits and investigations, may not even be able to afford the salaries commanded by the top managers in the market.

Claudio Reina’s future could also be affected. According to a statement released by the federation on Jan. 3, during the course of the investigation, the USSF “learned of possible inappropriate behavior toward several members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization. We take such behavior seriously and have expanded our investigation to include those allegations.” Stewart and McBride. Given his statements about sending text messages and reporting on his messages about Vicky at the U-17 World Cup, this could have an extended scope affecting Reyna, and Austin FC, his employer, causing consequences.

“I have never threatened anyone, nor will I ever do so,” Rena said in her statement. But if the investigation confirms instances of inappropriate behavior by Reyna, Austin should seriously consider whether he wants to continue serving as athletic director.

Befitting the rest of this story, there’s also some interpersonal awkwardness at play in Austin, coached by former US international Josh Wolff. The two-time World Cup veteran comes to the club after spending six years as Berhalter’s top lieutenant, first with Columbus, then with the USMNT. Additionally, Austin is owned by Anthony Precourt, who hired Berhalter in November 2013 in Columbus. That’s a pair of people with deep ties to Berhalter on either side of Reyna on the Austin organizational chart.

Austin, for what it’s worth, has already put some distance between himself and Reyna — at least temporarily. Since January 5, the day after news of Reynas’ involvement in the scandal, the club has not cited Claudio in its two first-team roster-related press releases, instead including Wolff or director of player personnel Sean Color. Rubio. Under normal circumstances, Reyna is quoted in roster announcements. When reached on Tuesday, a club spokesman declined to comment on the reason for the change.

There are questions to answer for Gio Reyna as well. He’s still young and can certainly grow from his poor behavior in Qatar, but a lack of proper effort at the World Cup is a pretty significant red flag, regardless of age. Reyna is talented, but feeling like he deserves to start for the U.S. team after he didn’t play a significant role during qualifying due to injury suggests a degree of entitlement unmatched by what he actually does on the field. It also ignores the potential of fellow wingers Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah, who performed well ahead of Reina in Qatar.

His first time back in the US locker room could be a little uncomfortable. It might not be an issue, but it’s not hard to imagine some of his teammates looking at him on the sidelines after his mom and dad escalated the play.

If Reina responds to this situation with humility, keeping his head down and using his considerable gifts to earn his place in the team, he will be fine for both club and country. If he doesn’t do that, it might affect his career negatively.

More than anything, it’s an absurd, sad way to close out a relatively successful World Cup cycle for the US men and enter what should be an exciting moment for the entire American soccer community. We don’t know what will become of this madness, but we do know that what should have been a positive moment has already been indelibly stained.

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Reyna’s mother reported the incident to US Soccer to Berhalter and his wife

(Photo: Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


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