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Archive for January 4, 2023

Jan. 4, 2023 — And you thought only women’s soccer had drama?

In the last 24 hours, a sordid tale has come to light which might, if taken out to its fullest extent, might explain a number of stories in recent U.S. men’s national soccer history.

But the tale does little to dispel the notion that there is a toxicity amongst those in charge.

Three decades ago, there was a domestic dispute between University of North Carolina student-athlete Gregg Berhalter and Rosalind Santana, a member of the UNC women’s team. An argument after a date resulted in a reported assault on the part of Berhalter — namely, kicking Santana.

The players reconciled after seven months and eventually got married and started a family.

Berhalter would eventually have a career in Europe and with the U.S. men’s national team, working his way up to become the U.S. men’s national team coach after the disastrous failure of the States to make it to the 2018 FIFA men’s World Cup.

During the qualifying cycle, one player who made a bid to make the final group of 26 players was Gio Reyna, whose mother, Danielle Egan, was a teammate of Santana’s at North Carolina. Reyna played only about 55 minutes for the U.S. in the Americans’ four games at Doha 2022. News reports later came out that he was almost sent home from Qatar for a lack of effort in training and in a pretournament friendly.

The media spotlight, in the days leading towards the end of 2022, turn to Berhalter’s relationship with U.S. Soccer. An expected announcement about the coach’s future never came, and the speculation started becoming somewhat uncomfortable.

Yesterday, Berhalter started a Twitter account and told the story of the domestic violence incident with the woman who would become his wife. But at the same time, he said this:

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.

In other words, blackmail. Given what occurred during the World Cup surrounding Reyna and his playing time, it would, of course, be plausible that the source of the information had to come from someone who knew a lot about the altercation. And in a place where information is as tightly kept such as a college sports program, it could very likely have been a teammate of either Berhalter or Santana.

This would run counter to the team culture that Anson Dorrance, the head women’s soccer coach at UNC and the men’s soccer coach until 1988, would have instilled. That culture very much exists to this day: the team is a family, and you do everything you can to protect those relationships.

While a lot of scrutiny is likely to fall on Danielle and Claudio Reyna, I think there’s a fair amount that should be directed at the university administration and coaching staffs. Did UNC men’s head coach Elmar Bolowich do enough to discipline Berhalter while he was a student-athlete? Did the administration have the kind of laissez-faire attitude that led to the murder of Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia?

And what really happened that night? I wouldn’t have thought that kicking a date would be the first course of lashing out during an argument.

There are so many details missing in this broken puzzle. I am getting a bad vibe from this — one worse than the whole NWSL situation.