Analysis: U.S Soccer launches investigation into inappropriate behavior towards USMNT staff
January 03, 2023
IT WAS AN EXPLOSIVE day on Tuesday when US Soccer announced the opening of an investigation about potential inappropriate behavior towards U.S. national team staff members. This came on the heels of a statement issued by Gregg Berhalter that individuals were attempting "bring about the end of my relationship with the USSF."
The details are unfortunate and sad. Berhalter acknowledged that the information used by third parties stem from an incident in 1991 at the University of North Carolina between Berhalter and his girlfriend (and now wife of 25 years), Rosalind Santana. After dating for four months, the two had an argument outside a bar that ended with Berhalter kicking Rosalind in the legs. The two separated but reconciled seven months later and have been together ever since. Last weekend, they celebrated their milestone 25th wedding anniversary.
According to Berhalter, he told immediate friends and family about the incident – as did Rosalind. Authorities were never called and there were no charges filed. But Berhalter said he went to counseling after the matter and both parties moved on.
January 3, 2023
Following the statement of Berhalter, U.S. Soccer announced that it has hired top law firm Alston & Bird, LLP to lead the investigation under attorneys Jenny Kramer,?BJay Pak?and?Chris Marquardt.
U.S. Soccer’s statement added some more detail saying the behavior reached beyond Berhalter and into multiple members of the staff.
“U.S. Soccer has learned about potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization,” U.S. Soccer’s statement said. “We take such behavior seriously and have expanded our investigation to include those allegations.”
U.S. Soccer later added that it would be transparent and the report from Alston & Bird would be released to the public once completed.
Here are a few thoughts
A very serious matter
As was to be expected, following the announcements U.S. national team fans were speculating as to who was threatening Berhalter with the information. The legal ramifications of a matter this serious should give people caution to publicly accuse people without a proper basis of fact. Journalists, including ASN, will have to have multiple sources before drawing links.
But all of this information should be out soon.
But if Berhalter’s accusations prove to be true, the consequences for those involved could be serious. It could potentially have ramifications to their respective employment and future employment – and any involvement with U.S. Soccer that they have. The issue of intent is also critical. If Berhalter is correct that someone attempted to threaten him with releasing information, the key element then becomes whether they were doing it with the intent of gaining something. If that then also true, the fact that such a person would threaten to release information that is truthful, wouldn't necessarily lessen the severity of the situation.
The fallout following the World Cup has been intense. This latest issue all comes on the heels of a much-publicized story surrounding Gio Reyna at the World Cup as Berhalter indicated he was on the verge of sending the talented Borussia Dormtund attacker home from Qatar because of poor behavior. Reyna later admitted such after expressing his disappointment that he would be used primarily as a substitute in Qatar.
There is also the 1991 incident and how it affects Berhalter moving forward. Violence against women in 2022 carries a much higher stigma than ever before. We’ve seen athletes in a number of sports struggled to find employment after such incidents.
I don’t believe this incident will necessarily preclude Berhalter from future employment as this matter was resolved between both parties – who then went on to have a strong marriage for 25 years with four children. There is plenty of evidence now to suggest that Berhalter is vastly different now than he was in 1991. But on the other hand, it probably will still have some impact with future potential employers in 2022 – many of whom now look to distance themselves from anyone involved in this type of behavior.
U.S. Soccer has dealt with several highly publicized issues in the women’s side of the game – the payment controversy and the Yates Report are the most known. It’s impossible to say how much weight this will be given in the decision to hire Berhalter for a second cycle, but it certainly doesn’t help.
January Camp & Berhalter’s future
Berhalter is not yet out of the running to return as head coach of the U.S. national team. But his contract expired at the start of the New Year, and he is no longer the head coach right now. U.S. Soccer always conducts a review of the World Cup performance following the tournament and that affects the decision to keep a head coach (the one exception is Jurgen Klinsmann as his contract was extended into the next cycle well before the 2014 World Cup). With the World Cup taking place into December, the timing is different, and we now head into January with the review not yet complete.
January camp is coming soon with friendlies against Serbia on Wednesday, January 25th at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles and then Colombia on Saturday, January 28th at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. The two games are outside the FIFA international window and a mostly domestic roster is expected.
The likelihood is approaching that U.S. Soccer will head into these games with an interim manager, although Berhalter is still not ruled out of the future. The best guess for potential names to run this camp could be Anthony Hudson and B.J. Callaghan who were on Berhalter’s staff at the World Cup. Luchi Gonzalez was also on the staff but has now taking the head coaching job with the San Jose Earthqaukes.
Hudson previously served as a head coach for the Colorado Rapids in a brief and unsuccessful tenure. He was named the U.S. U-20 coach but the 2021 cycle was cancelled due to COVID after just one camp. Callaghan was a successful youth coach in the Philadelphia area before becoming an assistant coach to the Philadelphia Union under Jim Curtin. During that time, the Union grew to becoming one of the most successful teams in MLS with a backbone on youth development.