The United States men's national team could feel mostly good about its progress at the 2022 World Cup. An absurdly young roster survived the group stage, and while they got smoked 3-1 by the Netherlands in the Round of 16, there were positive signs throughout the tournament. Everything that has happened since then has shown exactly why the U.S. men's program continually fails to get ahead.
Shortly after the U.S. was eliminated, manager Gregg Berhalter publicly discussed an internal team issue with an unnamed player. Berhalter said he had a discipline issue with a player who wasn't happy with his role and responded by not training hard and being difficult. That player was almost sent home from the tournament, but Berhalter lauded his staff and team leadership for working it out. The player took responsibility and his attitude changed. Young star Gio Reyna was quickly identified as the unnamed player.
Now this week we learned about a domestic incident involving Berhalter and his wife more than 30 years ago. It turns out, Reyna's mother leaked the story of the incident to U.S. Soccer shortly after Berhalter went public with the story about her son. Now everyone is being dragged through the mud publicly or putting out fires instead of being focused on the future of the program. This is why we can't have nice things.
Berhalter never should have publicly discussed an internal discipline issue. My stance is that he was attempting to advertise his leadership qualities as he looks to find his next job (his contract with the USMNT expired on Dec. 31). That was a locker room issue and airing it publicly was a mistake. Reyna was identified almost immediately and what could have been a learning experience has now turned into a bitter back and forth struggle.
We also learned that when Reyna was informed he would have a "limited role" at the World Cup, his father -- former national team captain Claudio -- got involved. He began sending message to U.S. Soccer executives threatening to "reveal sensitive details" about Berhalter's past. For the record, the Berhalter and Reyna families have been close for years and this appears to have driven them apart.
Almost every other national team has its fair share of drama but this is insane. The U.S. currently boasts more talent than at any point in its history. A wealth of exciting young players are either on the team or knocking on the door. Everyone should be focused on the future and how to harness that talent to surpass the performance at the 2022 World Cup. Instead, we get this petty garbage.
Berhalter's tenure with the USMNT should be done. His prospects for returning probably sat at around 50 percent following the World Cup, but after airing the internal issue with Reyna, how could any of his players ever trust him to keep conflicts in-house? As for the Reynas, 20-year-old Gio should not be blamed for his parents' ridiculous actions. But Claudio should be removed from dealings with U.S. Soccer. Hurting the program at a key moment because of a petty personal squabble is something you don't come back from.
U.S. Soccer needs to move quickly to put this behind it. Find a new, top-quality manager (or an interim caretaker while you conduct a search) and reprimand everyone involved in this mess.
The USMT will never be an international powerhouse until it starts acting like one.