Timeline of a decades-long bond ruptured by World Cup drama
The decades-long relationship that fractured during the 2022 World Cup began on grass fields in northern New Jersey. It exploded into the public eye recently as a feud, a messy web of American soccer madness; but for over 30 years, it was as tight as could be. Danielle Reyna and Rosalind Berhalter “talked every day for decades,” according to Gregg Berhalter. He and Claudio Reyna, meanwhile, became “best friends” as kids.
Their worlds collided beautifully at the University of North Carolina, and then with U.S. soccer national teams. They grew together as couples, then as families, celebrating each other’s marriages and kids as they went. They both produced soccer-playing sons, and became two of the sport’s most prominent families. With Gregg as the USMNT’s coach and Gio Reyna as one of its most talented players, their fairytale looked set to culminate in Qatar.
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Instead, it ruptured. Playing time disputes and helicopter parenting and mistakenly published comments led to an investigation, and the unearthing of a decades-old assault. The story of the Berhalters and the Reynas, once meaningful and magical, disintegrated into an ugly soap opera.
And a complicated one, with countless tentacles and twists and turns. Below is a timeline of how things unfolded.
Beginnings of the Berhalter-Reyna relationship
1980s — Gregg Berhalter and Claudio Reyna become friends and youth teammates, and later high school classmates, in northern New Jersey. They played together on a club team coached by Claudio’s father, and then at Saint Benedict’s Prep. They were, in Gregg’s words, “best friends growing up.”
1991 — Gregg, Rosalind Santana and Danielle Egan enroll at the University of North Carolina to play soccer. Rosalind and Danielle become roommates and “best friends,” according to Danielle. Gregg meets Rosalind during his first week on campus — during preseason, two teammates introduced the soon-to-be couple while Rosalind and Danielle were running at the UNC track, according to Gregg’s 2022 retelling. “There was a familiar feeling when we spoke,” Gregg would later write. “It felt like we had known each other for years.” They soon began dating.
January 1992 — Gregg and Rosalind, out drinking at the Players nightclub on Chapel Hill’s famous Franklin Street, get into a heated argument. Around midnight, they leave the bar and continue screaming at each other across the street. Rosalind either hits or scratches Gregg’s face. Gregg, in response, pushes Rosalind to the ground and kicks her. A bystander then tackles Gregg, presumably to prevent further harm. Rosalind returns to Players, finds Danielle, and they return to her dorm room.
The following day, both Gregg and Rosalind tell their respective parents about the incident, and report it to their respective UNC soccer coaches. Gregg tries to apologize to Rosalind — and ultimately sends her an apology note, a music mixtape and flowers — but Rosalind shuts him down and cuts off the relationship.
Over subsequent months, Gregg seeks counseling and largely stays away from Rosalind and other “athlete places.”
Fall 1992 — Gregg and Rosalind reconcile and begin dating again. They have been together ever since.
1994 — Gregg leaves North Carolina to play professionally in Europe. He also earns his first call-up to the U.S. men’s national team — where, over the next decade-plus, he reconnects with Claudio, who had also gone to Europe to play professionally after a few years in college at the University of Virginia. Even outside of national team camps, Claudio would later tell Emox News, the two spoke “all the time”; they were “very close.”
1994 — Danielle debuts for the U.S. women’s national team in 1993. In ’94, she and Claudio meet while the men’s and women’s national teams are both in camp in Southern California. They begin talking regularly, and soon become boyfriend and girlfriend.
Late 1990s — Danielle and Claudio get married. Gregg and Rosalind also get married. According to Gregg’s USMNT players association bio, Claudio was his best man at the Berhalter wedding. Danielle was also in the wedding, according to Rosalind.
2002 — Gregg and Claudio both play significant roles for the USMNT on its run to the World Cup quarterfinals. Over 12 years, Claudio in particular established himself as one of America’s most accomplished male players ever.
Gio Reyna rises, Gregg Berhalter becomes his coach
2002 — The Reynas have their second son, Giovanni Alejandro Reyna.
2010s — Gio rises through the academy at New York City FC, the MLS club where his dad, Claudio, was technical director. Gio then moves to Borussia Dortmund in 2019, at age 16, as one of the most highly touted U.S. youth prospects ever.
2016-19 — As Gio rises, Claudio periodically complains to U.S. Soccer officials about everything from Gio’s coaches to referees. His behavior would later be described by one unnamed person as “inappropriate,” “bullying,” and “mean-spirited.” Specifically, during the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, Claudio texted Gregg that U.S. U-17 coach Raphaël Wicky is “the worst coach.” (The U.S. didn’t win a game at the tournament, finishing bottom of its group, with one goal scored and eight conceded.)
2018 — Gregg, after stints coaching in Sweden and then in MLS with the Columbus Crew, gets hired to coach the USMNT. He was picked by Earnie Stewart, then the USMNT’s first GM, and formerly a USMNT teammate of both Gregg and Claudio for a decade. (Gregg’s brother, Jay, was the U.S. Soccer Federation’s chief commercial officer at the time.)
2020 — Gio, who has ascended to Borussia Dortmund’s first team, debuts for the senior U.S. national team. Gregg would later describe the feeling of coaching him as “almost like you’re putting a family member in the game.” He told an ESPN podcast in 2022: “Now as the national team manager it turns into a different relationship, but the connection is always there. The bond is always there. Our families are very close.”
2021-22 — Gio starts key games for the USMNT — namely, the Nations League final and the World Cup qualifying opener — but then struggles with hamstring injuries. He would make it through just one full game between September 2021 and the 2022 World Cup. He appeared off the bench for the USMNT in three March 2022 qualifiers. He felt somewhere close to 100% leading into the World Cup, but had been supplanted in Berhalter’s preferred starting 11 by Tim Weah.
Drama at the 2022 World Cup
November 2022 — According to Gio, Berhalter told him prior to the USMNT’s Nov. 21 opener “that my role at the tournament would be very limited.” Neither Berhalter nor Gio has gone into detail on what, exactly, that conversation entailed.
Gio would later acknowledge that he “let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior for a few days after learning about my limited role.” During a Nov. 17 scrimmage against a local Qatari club team, he “walk[ed] around, and mope[d] around the whole time,” Stewart would later tell investigators. Berhalter spoke with Gio afterward, but Gio’s noticeable lack of effort continued.
Nov. 21 — Reyna doesn’t play in the USMNT’s World Cup-opening 1-1 draw with Wales. Berhalter, at his post-match news conference, says that he went with Jordan Morris off the bench instead of Reyna because he felt that Morris “could give us something with speed and power” in the second half. Berhalter also mentioned “a little bit of [muscle] tightness that we were guarding against.” The team’s staff “did a last-minute check yesterday to make sure he was OK, and I think he’s gonna be OK, can envision him playing some role against England [on Friday],” Berhalter said. “But today, we thought, just given the nature of the game, it was too soon.”
Reyna, speaking shortly thereafter in the mixed zone, acknowledged a “little bit of tightness over the last few days,” but said he “definitely felt 100% going into today.”
Nov. 21-22 — Claudio texts Stewart that night: “What a complete and utter f***ing joke. Our family is disgusted in case you are wondering. Disgusted at how a coach is allowed to never be challenged and do whatever he wants.”
He also texts USMNT general manager Brian McBride — another former teammate and “close friend”: “Our entire family is disgusted, angry, and done with you guys. Don’t expect nice comments from anyone in our family about US Soccer. I’m being transparent to you not like the political clown show of the federation.”
Danielle, meanwhile, refuses to board a bus that her family had been sharing with Berhalter’s family for transportation to and from matches.
The following day, at a lunch event for USMNT families and friends, according to an unnamed witness, she says something to the effect of: “Once this tournament is over, I can make one phone call and give one interview, and [Gregg’s] cool sneakers and bounce passes will be gone.”
Nov. 22-24 — Gio’s behavior reportedly continues into training between the Wales game and the USMNT’s Nov. 25 showdown with England. According to Stewart, Berhalter leads discussions among coaches and U.S. Soccer officials about whether to send Gio home. Stewart said it was a balanced, objective conversation,” investigators would later write. “Ultimately, at the end of the discussion Mr. Berhalter made the decision to let Gio Reyna stay” — as long as he apologized to teammates and corrected his behavior. Gio ultimately did both of those things, and the issue subsided.
Nov. 24 — On Thanksgiving, as the team prepares for England, McBride and Stewart meet with Danielle and Claudio to help the Reynas understand Gio’s lack of playing time, according to McBride. During that meeting, per McBride, Claudio says: “You guys don’t even know what we know about Gregg.”
Nov. 25 — Gio plays eight forgettable minutes against England in a 0-0 draw.
Dec. 3 — Down 2-0 to the Netherlands in the Round of 16, Gregg inserts Gio as a halftime sub. He plays 21 minutes as a false 9, then the remainder of the game in his typical attacking midfield position, and is largely ineffective. The U.S. loses 3-1. Gio declines to speak with reporters in the mixed zone after the game.
World Cup aftermath: Drama explodes into public view
Dec. 6 — En route home from Qatar, Gregg attends and speaks at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership. He’s interviewed on stage by the HOW Institute’s founder and chairman, Dov Seidman. But the event is adhering to the Chatham House Rule, meaning his comments are not supposed to be published and attributed to him. He believes everything is “off the record.”
However, a third-party publicist representing the HOW Institute told Kevin Delaney, who was attending the summit as CEO and editor-in-chief of Charter, that Berhalter’s session was “open press.” When Delaney followed up after the session to double-check, he was again told by the publicist that “Greg’s interview is on the record.” (The HOW Institute declined to comment on the apparent breakdown in communication.)
Dec. 11 — Delaney publishes a lightly edited transcript of Berhalter’s comments, including the following passage:
“In this last World Cup, we had a player that was clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field. One of 26 players, so it stood out. As a staff, we sat together for hours deliberating what we were going to do with this player. We were ready to book a plane ticket home, that’s how extreme it was. And what it came down to was, we’re going to have one more conversation with him, and part of the conversation was how we’re going to behave from here out. There aren’t going to be any more infractions.
“But the other thing we said to him was, you’re going to have to apologize to the group, but it’s going to have to say why you’re apologizing. It’s going to have to go deeper than just ‘Guys, I’m sorry.’ And I prepped the leadership group with this. I said, ‘Okay, this guy’s going to apologize to you as a group, to the whole team.’ And what was fantastic in this whole thing is that after he apologized, they stood up one by one and said, ‘Listen, it hasn’t been good enough, You haven’t been meeting our expectations of a teammate and we want to see change.’ They really took ownership of that process. And from that day on there were no issues with this player.
“As a coach, the way you can deal with things most appropriately is going back to your values. Because it’s difficult to send a player home. It was going to be a massive controversy. You would have been reading about it for five days straight. But we were prepared to do it, because he wasn’t meeting the standards of the group, and the group was prepared to do it as well.”
Dec. 11 — Hours later, The Athletic publishes a story that it had already reported before Berhalter’s comments circulated. The story details how Gio Reyna “showed an alarming lack of effort in training ahead of the U.S.’s opening match,” and how he ultimately apologized to teammates.
Dec. 11 — With the comments and reports circulating, Claudio texts Stewart. Claudio and Danielle then speak with Stewart for around an hour on the phone. “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,” Danielle would later say in a statement, referring to Gregg.
Toward the end of the conversation, Danielle tells Stewart about the early-’90s incident involving Gregg and Rosalind because, she’d later say, “I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age,” Danielle would later say.
Stewart then reports the alleged incident to U.S. Soccer senior counsel Alison Kocoras. Kocoras would later relay to investigators that Danielle told Stewart that, although she’d never “go public” with the 1992 assault allegation, she’d start talking about it with people privately.
Soon thereafter, U.S. Soccer hires the Alston & Bird law firm to investigate.
Dec. 20-21 — Stewart speaks with the investigating attorneys. So does Gregg, who closes the interview by offering to help the attorneys arrange an interview with Rosalind — who speaks with them the following day, without Gregg present.
Dec. 31 — Gregg’s contract with U.S. Soccer expires.
Jan. 3, 2023 — In a statement signed by both Gregg and Rosalind, and posted to a newly created Twitter account under Gregg’s name, Gregg details the early-’90s incident. He calls it “some personal information which a third party has used against my family and me,” and says: “During the World Cup, an individual contacted U.S. Soccer, saying that they had information about me that would ‘take me down’ — an apparent effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer. This is a difficult step to take, but my wife, Rosalind, and I want to clearly and directly share the truth.”
Minutes later, U.S. Soccer releases a confusing statement saying that the investigation is ongoing, and has been “expanded” to look into “potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization.”
“We appreciate Gregg and Rosalind coming forward to speak openly about this incident,” the federation said, and committed to sharing “the results of the investigation publicly when it is complete.”
Jan. 4 — Danielle admits to telling Stewart about the decades-old incident. In a statement, she says that Gregg’s description of it a day earlier “significantly minimize[d] the abuse on the night in question.” She says she thought her Dec. 11 conversation with Stewart “would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation.”
“I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared,” Danielle’s statement continued. “But I want to be very clear that I did not ask for Gregg to be fired, I did not make any threats, and I don’t know anything about any blackmail attempts, nor have I ever had any discussions about anyone else on Gregg’s staff — I don’t know any of the other coaches. I did not communicate with anyone in U.S. Soccer about this matter before December 11, and no one else in my family has made any statements to U.S. Soccer regarding Gregg’s past at all.
“I’m sorry that this information became public, and I regret that I played a role in something that could reopen wounds from the past.”
Claudio, in a corresponding statement, said: “I support my wife, Danielle, and her statement. I too was upset by Gregg’s comments about Gio after the U.S. was out of the World Cup, and I also appealed to Earnie Stewart on December 11 asking him to prevent any additional comments.
“While in Qatar, I shared my frustrations about my son’s World Cup experience with a number of close friends, Earnie and Brian McBride among them. However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so.”
Jan. 5 — Gregg speaks publicly for the first time since the World Cup. In a live-streamed interview with the Harvard Business Review, when asked about the Reyna saga, he says his “entire family is saddened by these events.”
“The worst part of it for me is, my heart aches for my wife,” he says. “Because it was her story to tell, if she chose to or not. … I feel tremendously bad that my profession had to bring this to the public light.”
Gregg also says that he’d “like to continue in my role” as USMNT head coach. U.S. Soccer officials, including Stewart, had said less than 24 hours earlier that Berhalter was still a candidate for the job moving forward, but that a decision would not be made until after the completion of the investigation.
Jan. 19 — Stewart tells the U.S. Soccer board of directors that McBride won’t return as USMNT GM. McBride later says that he made the decision long before the World Cup, in October.
January — Stewart decides to leave U.S. Soccer and take a job in his native Netherlands, as PSV Eindhoven’s director of football.
Jan. 26 — U.S. Soccer announces Stewart’s impending departure, and says it has retained the consulting firm Sportsology to help lead the search for a new sporting director and reassess the federation’s entire sporting structure.
In a statement through U.S. Soccer, Stewart says: “When the opportunity arose to return to the Netherlands to pursue an exciting and challenging role that was near my family, I could not turn it down.”
Batson says that the Berhalter-Reyna saga had “no impact whatsoever” on Stewart’s departure.
Jan. 26 — Several hours after U.S. Soccer announced Stewart’s departure, Austin FC announces that Claudio Reyna is “stepping down” as the MLS club’s sporting director and “transitioning” into a “technical advisor role.” The club did not mention the Berhalter saga, and did not describe what Reyna’s new role would entail. A club spokesman did not respond to an email seeking clarification on that and other details.
March 13 — U.S. Soccer releases Alston & Bird’s report, which finds no legal impediments to Berhalter’s future employment. In a corresponding statement, U.S. Soccer says that Berhalter “remains a candidate to serve as” USMNT coach.
The federation also confirms that it has begun interviewing candidates for the vacant sporting director position. The new sporting director will then be responsible for the head-coaching hire.