The real villain of the Berhalter-Reyna saga? Gio Reyna's nightmare soccer parents
If Claudio and Danielle Reyna were hoping to make someone look bad when they revealed a 30-year-old assault situation, they definitely succeeded.
The Reynas look terrible.
Their need for revenge on U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter for their son Gio's lack of playing time at last year's Men's World Cup did get the desired effect in the short term: Berhalter's contract wasn't renewed before it expired on Dec. 31 and the soccer world found out about a night the coach said he "regrets to this day."
Beyond that, the Reynas unwittingly pulled back the curtain on their own unsavory-at-best behavior, including frequent complaints to U.S. Soccer, "bullying" of organization officials, sexism; basically, stereotypical nightmare sports parents stuff.
On Monday, U.S. Soccer released the findings of the investigation it commissioned into Berhalter, who was let go from the role last year. They corroborate much of what Berhalter has admitted publicly about an ugly event that took place between himself and his then-girlfriend, Rosalind, when they were college students at the University of North Carolina
Via the investigation, all signs point to that one terrible night in 1992 — when Rosalind and Gregg's shouting match turned physical, with Rosalind either hitting or scratching his face and Gregg responding by shoving Rosalind to the ground and kicking her — as the only such incident between the couple. Both immediately reported the event to their parents and respective UNC soccer coaches, Gregg sought therapy, and they reconciled seven months later; they remain together today.
Destroyed, however? The decades-long friendship between the Reynas and Berhalters and the public perception of one of America's greatest players. Unclear at this point is what the Reynas' tactics have done to their relationship with their adult son and how their soap opera-level villainy may affect U.S. Soccer long term.
Claudio Reyna was named to four U.S. World Cup teams, playing in three (he was injured in 1994) and serving as captain for two. He also played in the Olympics twice, retiring from soccer in 2008 after two seasons with MLS' New York Red Bulls, which allowed him to play his final years not far from his New Jersey roots.
His relationship with Gregg Berhalter began as teammates in high school. By Claudio Reyna's account, after reconnecting post-college, the two were so close that Claudio was the best man when Gregg and Rosalind wed. And Rosalind and Danielle Reyna had been friends for nearly as long, beginning when they were roommates and teammates at UNC.
But apparently hell hath no fury like soccer parents scorned. Because once their kids became involved, the Reynas were more than willing to light it all on fire to get Gio what they felt he deserved.
According to the findings, last year's World Cup was just the culmination.
Claudio, who did not sit down with attorneys conducting the investigation, had been contacting U.S. Soccer for years. One federation official said that text messages would come "in the heat of the moment," and calls would follow, with Claudio venting. Examples of this included when Gio was a youth player, and Claudio tried to get the federation to overturn a red card his son had received because it meant Gio would have to sit out the next match, and a 2019 text to Berhalter complaining about the under-17 national team's performance, calling Raphaël Wicky "the worst coach."
A year earlier, Claudio sent an email lamenting the presence of a female official writing, "Can we get real and have male refs for a game like this. It's embarrassing guys. What are we trying to prove? A game like this deserves bett[e]r attention."
Because as we all know, the men's game and women's game are so completely different, there's absolutely no way a woman's brain could process it. (For the unaware, that is sarcasm. Thick sarcasm.)
While the name is redacted in documents, someone at U.S. Soccer circulated Claudio's email about the female referee internally, calling it "sad to see" and "not appropriate or acceptable."
Then came Qatar.
When Gio didn't play at all in the U.S.' World Cup opener with Wales, both of his parents made "vague" comments to U.S. Soccer officials about the 1992 incident between the Berhalters, and Claudio texted U.S. Soccer sporting director Ernie Stewart, "what a complete and utter [expletive] joke. Our family is disgusted ... disgusted at how a coach is allowed to never be challenged and do whatever he wants." He sent something similar to federation general manager Brian McBride.
At a meeting with McBride three days later, Claudio again brought up the night 30 years prior, allegedly saying, "You guys don’t even know what we know about Gregg."
Ultimately, however, it was Danielle Reyna who stopped the threats and followed through. On a call with Stewart after the World Cup, it was she who said Gregg had "beat the [expletive] out of" Rosalind in college, setting everything into motion.
Since U.S. Soccer's inquiry didn't turn up anything further, it has said that Berhalter remains a candidate to fill the still-vacant role he once held, though he is considered a long shot now with Stewart and McBride no longer with the federation.
Interim USMNT coach Anthony Hudson invited Gio Reyna, who is still just 20 years old, to training camp in Orlando, Florida, later this month in advance of CONCACAF Nations League matches with Grenada and El Salvador, and Reyna reportedly has accepted.
Claudio and Danielle, however, have a much harder road to traverse. While they didn't break any rules, as U.S. Soccer didn't have any formal policies on parent-employee communications, that may be the least of their worries. Their venomous ways are public knowledge now.
"When things don't go great for Gio, [the Reynas] pivot and go into attack mode," Berhalter told investigators.
What began as a childish quest for vengeance and exposing the misdeed of an alleged lifelong friend exposed Claudio and Danielle Reyna as the bad guys instead.