My favorite Wilmer since Valderrama

This post originally ran on our sister blog, Fire Alexi Lalas, last week. Since it is related to the USMNT, we thought we’d re-post it here on Project 2010.

The USSF can be pretty depressing. While certain problems are to be expected due to the relative youth and lack of resources of US Soccer, others are just baffling. My biggest complaint of all is the inability of the USSF to part ways with personel. Senior national team coaches are guaranteed a minimum of four years. All others are essentially lifers. While cannings do occur, no one ever disappears–they just get shuffled around. But in this system that is depressing more often than not, Wilmer Cabrera is a breath of fresh air. I was excited about his hiring after the fir–erm, shuffling of John Hackworth, and everything I have heard since then has me convinced that the USSF has made a good hire. Jeff Carlisle’s article from January 29th–part one of a five-part series examining our youth system–is a pretty interesting read. But, as is the case with many USSF-related articles, it was the little things that stood out…

Regarding his U-17 team’s recent 3-0 defeat to Brazil:

“Today, I think [Brazil] realized we weren’t too comfortable with the ball,” said Cabrera. “And if you’re not comfortable with the ball against the top teams, they’re going to punish you. When we have the ball, we need to have more personality, and relieve that kind of nervousness and just play.”

This is precisely why I love Cabrera. In a system that largely emphasizes clean fundamentals (which, of course, are important), Cabrera preaches creativity. I can’t deny that US Soccer has progressed beyond almost anyone’s wildest expectations–in 20 years, we’ve gone from soft to respectable. We’ve gone from Mexico’s whipping boys to giants of the region. Heck, we’ve even made a World Cup quarter final. And this is all largely due to our system and style–it’s fundamentally sound, defensively strong, and allows us to hang in there, even with the big boys. But we simply lack the creative forces that could take us to the next level. Reducing all of our problems to the lack of a Xavi or Essien would be the overstatement of the year. But we have talented, creative players coming up and I think it’s only right that we allow them to flourish in our system. To clarify my point, here is an excerpt from Justin Rodriguez’s September 25th article on US youth up-and-comer Joseph Gyau:

Gyau would sometimes take on an entire team, dribbling through player after player, before netting a goal. Still, even the best of players often end up dusting themselves off on the grass after all-out runs like that. With the residency team, head coach Wilmer Cabrera, a former Colombian national player, has allowed Gyau to push the ball feverishly up the pitch, while developing his distributing and shot on goal.

In the past Phillip Gyau says coaches, including one in the U.S. system, tried bottling up his speedy son, telling him to give up the ball more and not dribble as much.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…it’s a little unfair to characterize an entire system based on the actions of “one coach,” but I have a hard time believing this mindset is unique to the unnamed individual, and I have an even harder time believing this was an isolated incident. Wilmer Cabrera is great. We need more coaches like him. I am left with one question, though: what ever happened to that guy that got fired from Cabrera’s position?

Taken from the original Carlisle article:

For U.S. men’s national team assistant John Hackworth, who also doubles as the Development Academy’s technical director…

Oh…yeah…makes sense, I guess.


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