(Reuters) – An investigation into former U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s dispute with his wife outside a bar in 1992 concluded that U.S. Soccer was not in the wrong for hiring him as the national team coach, the federation said on Monday.
The investigators’ conclusions mean there is now no legal impediment to employing Berhalter, who remains a candidate for the coaching job which is now held by Anthony Hudson on an interim basis.
The investigation came about after Berhalter criticised U.S. midfielder Gio Reyna, who he said had not met expectations at the World Cup in Qatar, with Reyna’s mother Danielle informing the federation of the 1992 incident.
Danielle and Berhalter’s wife Rosalind were previously college room mates and soccer team mates.
Berhalter has said he regrets kicking his wife of 25 years in the legs during the dispute and that they ultimately reconciled and learned from the incident.
“Based on the facts obtained throughout the investigation, the legal analysis conducted by Alston & Bird leads us to conclude that the fact of the 1992 incident does not prevent an employer from employing Mr Berhalter,” the report said.
“Given that the 1992 incident occurred approximately 31 years ago and given the lack of information or any evidence contradicting witness accounts or suggesting any similar conduct after that incident, there is no basis to conclude that employing Mr Berhalter would create legal risks for an organization.”
The investigators said they were impressed with Berhalter’s “candor and demeanor” during the investigation and that he had cooperated fully and extensively.
However, they said they were “less impressed” with the Reynas’ cooperation.
“After several attempts to schedule an interview, we had two brief phone conversations with Mrs Reyna on December 29th, and we did not succeed in having a follow-up conversation with her –or any conversation with Mr. Reyna – after that,” it said.
“Mrs. Reyna’s story evolved over the course of the investigation.”
U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart had also decided to vacate his position amid an ongoing shakeup at the organization, which said interviews were underway to hire his replacement.
“The Sporting Director will lead the process of determining who will serve as head coach of the Men’s National Team,” U.S. Soccer said.
“Given the investigators’ conclusion that there is no legal impediment to employing him, Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to serve as head coach of the Men’s National Team.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru)