Berhalter: I want to get the best out of Gio Reyna (1:23)

Gregg Berhalter hopes to foster a strong relationship with Gio Reyna in his return to the USMNT. (1:23)

  • Jeff Carlisle, U.S. soccer correspondentJun 16, 2023, 06:59 PM ET

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      Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

LAS VEGAS — Reappointed U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter admitted “there’s work to do” in terms of repairing his relationship with midfielder Gio Reyna.

The relationship between Berhalter and the Reyna family was at the heart of a messy affair that led to Berhalter’s contract being allowed to expire at the end of 2022. With Berhalter officially reassuming his post on Friday, one of his most important tasks will be rebuilding the connection with Reyna, who remains one of the most talented players on the U.S. roster.

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“I’d certainly acknowledge that there’s work to do, and Gio is an important player to this team,” Berhalter said at a news conference. “He’s an extremely talented individual, and I have the obligation and the commitment to coach him like I coach every other player, and I want to get the best out of him.

“We want to get the best out of him, and we know that if we can unlock his talents, he’s going to be a game changer for this program. So there’s work to do, and part of it is working together with [sporting director] Matt [Crocker] and trying to rebuild a relationship that we know will be important moving forward.”

Speaking at a leadership conference after the 2022 World Cup, Berhalter recounted how he nearly sent an unnamed player — later identified as Reyna — home for poor behavior.

This drew an angry response from Reyna’s parents, Danielle and Claudio, both former U.S. internationals, who informed then-USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart of a domestic violence incident involving Berhalter and his now-wife Rosalind when the two were in college.

An investigation followed, with the USSF accepting Berhalter’s explanation and steps he took to make amends, but he was left in limbo as he waited for the USSF to hire a new sporting director and conduct a search for a new manager. The managerial position was filled by two interim coaches, first Anthony Hudson and later B.J. Callaghan.

When asked later during Friday’s availability about when he would reach out to Reyna, Berhalter said he would give the player some space ahead of Sunday’s Concacaf Nations League final against Canada, as well as letting Reyna enjoy his offseason.

“With Gio, I think the most important thing for him right now is to focus on playing in a final and winning the final,” he said. “I can imagine after that he wants some vacation and meeting with me is not the priority. It’s for him to get rest and prepare for the upcoming season. We’ll have time to do that. It is a priority, but we’ll have time to do that before the September window.”

Berhalter added that he had also not spoken with players who were among the last cuts from the World Cup squad, including Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen and Augsburg forward Ricardo Pepi.

“I have not spoken with them and like the Gio case, I think there’s a number of individuals that you want to speak with,” said Berhalter. “Ideally what you have is alignment with everybody, and all we’re doing is trying to be great together and it needs the relationships to be good. It needs the players to be focused on what we’re doing and there’s certainly be time for that in these upcoming months.”

News of Berhalter’s reappointment through the 2026 World Cup on home soil came after sources told ESPN this week that he was a candidate for the manager’s job at Mexican giants Club América.

Berhalter confirmed that he did have talks with the Liga MX side, but it was clear his heart was set on returning as U.S. manager.

“I think it was an intriguing possibility,” he said. “But one thing I told them when I got the date for this interview is I have to do this interview. I know that we have something that we’re discussing, but I have to go through with this because I would regret it the rest of my life if I never gave myself the opportunity. And so thankfully they were accommodating and I got the job obviously and now I’m here.”

One twist to Berhalter’s return is that he won’t be managing the U.S. at the upcoming Gold Cup, with current interim coach Callaghan continuing in his role.

Crocker stated that there are some strategic items that he and Berhalter will be going over, and therefore he didn’t want Berhalter jumping straight back in. Those tasks were viewed as being more important than an immediate return to the coaching the team.

“It gives myself and Gregg the real great opportunity of spending some real time together, working through and piecing together the framework of that strategy for 2026 that we can then bring back to the staff and players and start to get their input,” he said.

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