If you thought the politics of a disgruntled suburban soccer mom’s vitriol against the town’s soccer coach was bad, you clearly did not play soccer in suburban NJ, because those moms will take on the US Men’s National team coach (paywall) without blinking an eye, as Danielle Reyna did to Craig Berhalter:
To set the record straight, I [Danielle Reyna] did call (U.S. Soccer sporting director) Earnie Stewart on December 11, just after the news broke that Gregg had made negative statements about my son Gio at a leadership conference, I have known Earnie for years and consider him to be a close friend. I wanted to let him know that I was absolutely outraged and devasted 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. As part of that conversation, I told Earnie that 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. Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. It took a long time for me to forgive and accept Gregg afterward, but I worked hard to give him grace, and ultimately made both of them and their kids a huge part of my family’s life. I would have wanted and expected him to give the same grace to Gio. This is why the current situation is so very hurtful and hard. At the time I called Earnie, many people were trashing Gio on social media due to Gregg’s comments, and I didn’t know when or if this would stop. I just wanted Earnie to help make sure that there would be no further unwarranted attacks on my son. I thought our conversation would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation. I’m not criticizing Earnie here. “I very much commend the recent efforts by U.S. Soccer to address abuse of women players, and I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared. 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.The Athletic (paywall)
Now, the USMNT did not have any chance of seriously competing for this year’s World Cup in Qatar. It was a ‘we’re happy to be here’ appearance and anything beyond making the knockout stage was playing with house money (being that the USMNT didn’t even qualify in 2018). Would playing Gio Reyna have changed the USMNT’s outcome? I’m guessing probably not. The Netherlands team the US lost to was an exceptionally well coached team that was playing chess compared to Berhalter’s checkers strategy. Playing Gio may have made the matches in the knockout stage a little easier however I’m not convinced he would have been a difference maker vs the Netherlands, much less the next round opponent Argentina should we have advanced.
The way Berhalter handled the Gio Reyna situation was a failure of leadership to not clearly and truthfully communicate the reasons for his decisions to the player, the press and by proxy, the fans of the USMNT team. I can also relate to Mrs. Reyna’s perception on how Coach Berhalter’s negative statements about Gio in the conference she noted above were unfair, damaging, and, frankly, an immature way of handling the situation. Reading between the lines, it seems that the long and deep relationship that the Reyna and Berhalter families had probably gave Gio and his parents the perception that he was going to get ample playing time in the World Cup and when things didn’t go exactly to Gio’s liking, there was likely a sense of disappointment that clearly went south quickly. The way Gio reacted was immature, yet even though he has been playing soccer at some of the highest levels in the world, let’s remember that he’s still all of 20 years old. Suburban soccer mom’s can be a nasty bunch sometimes, and even when you’re the Head Coach of the freaking US Men’s National Team, you can be taken to the woodshed by a mom who’s pissed her son did not play as much as they would have liked.