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Berhalter rehired as U.S. Soccer coach after controversy involving a player's family

U.S. Men's National Soccer Team head coach Gregg Berhalter answers questions during a news conference Friday in Las Vegas.
Lucas Peltier
/
AP
U.S. Men's National Soccer Team head coach Gregg Berhalter answers questions during a news conference Friday in Las Vegas.

After months of turmoil that involved an investigation into a decades-old domestic violence incident and a falling out with the family of a star player, Gregg Berhalter returns to coach the U.S. men's soccer team.

The U.S. Soccer Federation announcedthat it had ended its search for a head coach on Friday — about six months since Berhalter's contract expired, creating a vacancy in the first place.

U.S. Soccer officials said they evaluated a range of domestic and international candidates, but in the end, no one seemed better equipped to prepare the team for the 2026 FIFA World Cup than Berhalter — the first person in U.S. history to participate in a FIFA World Cup as both a player and head coach.

"I am confident that Gregg is the right person for the job and looking forward to working in partnership with him," Matt Crocker, the U.S. Soccer sporting director who led the job search, said in a statement.

Cindy Parlow Cone, the president of U.S. Soccer, said the federation takes accusations of domestic violence "very seriously" and felt comfortable reappointing Berhalter after an independent investigation determined that the 1992 incident involving he and his wife was"an isolated event."

"We trust those findings and Gregg has our full support," Parlow Cone said at a press conference on Friday.

B.J. Callaghan, who is currently the interim head coach, will continue to lead the team through the Concacaf Gold Cup, which ends in mid-July. Meanwhile, Berhalter will spend the summer working on "big-picture items away from the team," Crocker added.

Berhalter was the head coach for the men's national team between 2018 and 2022. While being considered for another term, allegations of an old domestic abuse incident came to light — prompting an investigationby U.S. Soccer.

Berhalter later admittedthat there was some truth to the claims, explaining that when he and his wife were young, they got into a heated argument where he "kicked her in the legs." He said the incident took place over 30 years ago, when he was 18, and he matured a lot as a partner since then.

To make matters complicated, it turned out that soccer officials learned about the altercation from the parents of one of Berhalter's star players. Danielle Reyna, who was friends with Berhalter and his wife in college, told the press that she disclosed the information after being upset over comments that Berhalter presumablymade about her son Gio Reyna's limited playing time in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Reyna said she felt "very personally betrayed by the actions of someone my family had considered a friend for decades," though she added that her intentions were not for him to get fired.

At a U.S. Soccer news conference on Friday, Berhalter said he has not spoken to Gio Reyna but he hopes to repair the relationship in the coming months.

"All we're doing is trying to be great together and it needs the relationships to be good," Berhalter said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.