US Soccer says Gregg Berhalter remains top coaching candidate after naming interim coach for January camp

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DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 3: United States head coach Gregg Berhalter and his bench during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 round of 16 match between Netherlands and USMNT at Khalifa International Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

By Gregg Berhalter as part of the US Soccer investigation, the team’s coaching solution is a temporary solution for their first games in 2023. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. Soccer director of sports Earnie Stewart said Wednesday that Gregg Berhalter remains “considered” to continue as head coach of the U.S. men’s national team, pending an investigation into a decades-old domestic violence incident. , and even as a break with a prominent player’s family. bursting into public view.

Berhalter, whose contract expired on December 31, became embroiled in a multi-faceted scandal when Danielle Reyna, the mother of 20-year-old striker Gio Reyna, told Stewart about an incident in the early 1990s in the Berhalter and his now wife, Rosalind. Danielle confirmed on Wednesday that she did so because she was “totally upset and [devastated]” that Berhalter had suddenly spoken about Gio’s World Cup misconduct at a leadership conference shortly after the USMNT was eliminated.

US Soccer subsequently launched an investigation into the incident, which prompted Berhalter to make details public. It happened when he and Rosalind were students at the University of North Carolina. He admitted that a few months into their relationship, during what Gregg described as a “heated argument” at a bar, he “kicked [Rosalind] in the legs.”

While the investigation is ongoing, US Soccer on Wednesday appointed Anthony Hudson, an assistant under Berhalter, to lead the USMNT at their annual training camp in January. He will be supported by another Berhalter assistant, BJ Callaghan, and under-20 head coach Mikey Varas.

Stewart and other U.S. Soccer leaders said Wednesday that, in addition to the investigation, they are currently reviewing the USMNT program, its performance at the World Cup, and its overall development over the past four years. .

They said they always knew the review could extend to 2023, and that they might need a temporary coaching plan for the January camp. Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone attributed this to “the timing of the World Cup… going right up against the holidays. ” (It’s usually a summer tournament.) It’s unclear whether Berhalter could have been in charge on an interim basis if not for the investigation.

Stewart, in his first public comments since the World Cup, said in a dramatic opening statement that the USMNT had a “successful four years” under Berhalter. He called the team’s identity, “our style of play and who we are and how we want to play at the World Cup,” and said he was “happy with that piece. So, very happy with this group after the four years.”

On a conference call that lasted about 35 minutes, however, Stewart, Parlow Cone and CEO JT Baston were mostly silent and refused to answer questions about Berhalter and the Reynas, or anything related to the study.

“There’s a lot we don’t know yet,” Baston said Wednesday. He later added: “The investigation is still ongoing. We await a report from Alston & Bird, [the law firm U.S. Soccer hired to conduct the investigation]. Through that, we will be able to make a decision about how to proceed.”

Danielle Reyna — who was familiar with the domestic violence incident because she was a teammate and close friend of Rosalind’s at UNC — said Wednesday that Berhalter’s description of it “reduces it greatly.[d] the abuse that night.” A spokesman for Berhalter said he had no comment.

Berhalter said in his statement Tuesday that he “immediately apologized to Rosalind, but understandably, she wanted nothing to do with me.” I told my parents, family and friends what happened because I wanted to take full responsibility for my behaviour. Rosalind also told her parents, family and friends.” Berhalter sought advice. A few months later, they reconciled, married in the late 90s, and have since raised four children.

FILE - United States head coach Gregg Berhalter watches the game during the World Cup group B soccer match between England and the United States, at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 The U.S. Soccer Federation revealed Tuesday, January 3, 2023 that it is investigating what Gregg Berhalter said was a 1991 altercation in which he kicked the woman who became his wife. after that.  (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

The US Soccer Federation revealed on Tuesday that it is investigating a domestic violence incident in the early 1990s involving Gregg Berhalter. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

The authorities were never informed of the brutal incident, and it remained a private matter as Berhalter was rising in football, first as a player and then as a coach.

After a stint coaching in Sweden and then with the Columbus Crew in MLS, he became the USMNT head coach in December 2018. His first year was an interim one. His second, 2020, was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. His third, 2021, was the most successful, with two trophies – the Gold Cup and the first CONCACAF Nations League – and three straight wins over Mexico.

The fourth and final year of his contract ended with a World Cup run that met most reasonable expectations. The USA reached the Round of 16, where they lost to the Netherlands. Berhalter won praise for his game planning and managing a young roster, but after the USMNT’s elimination, his critics were as loud as ever.

Over the month since then, Berhalter and US Soccer have discussed a contract extension, but neither has shown a definite interest. The federation could look elsewhere for a new head coach. Berhalter, likewise, could look to the European club game, which is more suited to his management style, for his next role.

Decision making is a complex time. European club seasons are in full swing and don’t end until May. The USMNT, meanwhile, will likely use 2023 as another transition year, whether Berhalter returns at the helm or not. Their next major competition will not come until the summer of 2024 at the earliest, and they will automatically qualify for the 2026 World Cup as co-hosts. Although the opportunity to lead the team to the World Cup on home soil may attract the main candidates, the job is less immediately attractive.

Fabrizio Romano, world soccer’s top transfer defender, said on a CBS Sports podcast this week that there were “discussions with representatives” about the USMNT coaching gig, but that it was an “open position.”

Then the Reyna saga unfolded and further complicated matters. Gio Reyna is widely regarded as one of the best under-21 talents in world football, not to mention a collection of American players. Federation leaders declined to speak directly about Gio’s future with the team on Wednesday, but when asked, Stewart said: “Every player who has a US passport will be eligible to play for the our American national teams. So, I don’t see any problem. proceed in any way with respect to any player.”

Stewart was also asked about the merits of retaining a national team coach for a second cycle, in general. He and Cone said, basically, that any discussion about second-round coaches was oversimplified, and that they would consider coaches as individuals.

“What I believe in is consistency and continuity and the way you play, how you do things, and making sure when players come into camp, they remember what happened last time,” Stewart said. “So consistency and continuity is really important. That doesn’t always have to happen with the same coach, but it makes that process easier.”

The gap year begins with some continuity. Hudson, who joined Berhalter’s staff in 2021, will oversee the team’s annual camp in January, sometimes known as “Camp Cupcake.” It will feature very few, if any, of the 26 players on the World Cup roster. With the matches taking place outside the FIFA international window and during European seasons, clubs are not required to release players to the USMNT. The camp is traditionally a proving ground for MLS players and youngsters – and especially this year, just a month after the World Cup.

It will end with friendlies against Serbia (January 25) and Colombia (January 28) in the Los Angeles area. The USMNT’s next competitive games will be against Grenada and El Salvador at the end of March.

Regarding the investigation’s timeline, Parlow Cone said: “We don’t know, because it’s completely independent, and we want [the law firm] to follow the facts wherever they lead. But obviously we need to do this sooner so that we can announce who will be the head coach of the men’s national team and start preparing for the ’26 World Cup. So we want to move quickly, but not in a hurry.”

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