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The Margin: U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter says he was targeted in blackmail attempt at World Cup


U.S. men’s national team soccer coach Gregg Berhalter has described how someone allegedly approached the U.S. Soccer Federation during the Qatar World Cup with information about his past in an attempt to get him fired.

“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,” he said, in a statement tweeted Tuesday.

In his statement, Berhalter described an incident between him and his now-wife Rosalind that happened when he was 18. “One night, while out drinking at a local bar, Rosalind and I had a heated argument that continued outside,” he said. “It became physical and I kicked her in the legs.”

The couple, who met in the fall of 1991, had been dating for four months when the incident happened, according to Berhalter. The coach said there are “zero excuses” for his actions that night. “It was a shameful moment and one that I regret to this day,” he added.

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“While the authorities were never involved in this matter, I voluntarily sought out counseling to help learn, grow and improve — one of the most valuable decisions that I ever made,” he wrote. “To this day, that type of behavior has never been repeated.”

Berhalter and Rosalind eventually reconciled, and later married. The couple, who have four children, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last weekend.

In the statement, Berhalter said that he and his wife have fully cooperated with a U.S. Soccer Federation investigation into the matter.

U.S. Soccer said that it learned of the allegation against Berhalter on Dec. 11, and hired law firm Alston & Bird to conduct an independent investigation, which is ongoing. “Through this process, U.S. Soccer has learned about potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by individuals outside of our organization,” U.S. Soccer said, in a tweeted statement. “We take such behavior seriously, and have expanded our investigation to include those allegations.”

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“We appreciate Gregg and Rosalind coming forward to speak openly about this incident,” U.S. Soccer added. “Consistent to our commitment to transparency, we will share the results of the investigation publicly when it is complete. U.S. Soccer condemns violence of any kind and takes such allegations very seriously.”

The U.S. soccer team was knocked out of the Qatar World Cup by the Netherlands, who won their round of 16 clash 3-1 on Dec. 3. Argentina won the World Cup on Dec. 18 when they defeated France on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

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