Published: January 3, 2012
(The official USSF press release announcing the departure of Wilmer Cabrera for the organization, issued earlier Tuesday, is included at the end of this article).
On Tuesday, U.S. Soccer announced that U.S. U17 head coach Wilmer Cabrera and the federation had "mutually agreed to part ways." The split ended a four-year tenure for the former Colombian international that had its fair share of highs and lows.
The parting comes one month after Cabrera led the team to a title at the Nike International Friendlies that included wins over Brazil and France. On the other end of the spectrum, it comes six months after Cabrera blasted the performance of his players at the 2011 U17 World Cup due to a lack of maturity.
Cabrera assumed the role as head coach of the U17 program in fall of 2007 after cutting his teeth in the U.S. youth system with New York club B.W. Gottschee. He led the team to two U17 World Cup appearances, but failed to advance past the first knockout stage at either event.
The premature exit at last year's event was the fifth straight time that the U.S. failed to win a game beyond the pool play round. The lackluster showing led to an outburst from the coach regarding the state of the American player.
"At this stage, in our country the kids are still boys," he said following a 4-0 loss to Germany. "In other countries, they are already fighting for a spot in a professional team."
Perhaps handicapped by the residency program, the shift toward a more professional player never took shape in the months following the World Cup even as the age group transitioned into a new cycle.
"I've enjoyed my time with the U17s, but my journey with U.S. Soccer will be coming to an end," Cabrera said in a press release on Tuesday. "I am looking forward to the next stage of my coaching career."
Cabrera's critics questioned his willingness to communicate and cooperate with the coaching community, including other parts of the USSF YNT setup. The age-appropriate qualities of his coaching methods and communication style were also sometimes disputed.
With the dismissal of Cabrera, the federation has now split with every youth national team head coach since Claudio Reyna accepted the position as Youth Technical Director in April, 2010.
In October, the federation began the shakeup when they selected Caleb Porter as the Olympic team coach, Tab Ramos as the U20 coach, Richie Williams for the U18s, and Tony Lepore to lead the U15s. Hugo Perez now leads the U14 BNT, replacing longtime coach and now semi-retired coach Manfred Schellscheidt.
Reyna has stressed the importance of one style of play among all age groups since taking over the directing role. With all of the recent hires, it is clear that he is making those words ring true in the near future.
The new direction for the youth national program now lands on Reyna's shoulders as he has been the instrumental part in shepherding the federation into this new era.
In the immediate future, Cabrera will continue as head coach until the end of January. The search for a replacement is underway.
Text of USSF release about Wilmer Cabrera's departure is as follows.
U.S. Soccer announced today that Wilmer Cabrera will be leaving his role as head coach of the U.S U17 Men's National Team after the two sides mutually agreed to part ways.
"After several discussions with Wilmer, we agreed that parting ways at this time was the best way forward," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "We appreciate Wilmer's contributions to U.S. Soccer during the past four years with the U17 Men's National Team. We wish him all the best in the future."
Cabrera will coach the team through January, including an international trip to Turkey, as U.S. Soccer transitions to a new coaching staff to oversee the U17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. A search for a replacement is underway.
"I've enjoyed my time with the U17s, but my journey with U.S. Soccer will be coming to an end," said Cabrera. "I am looking forward to the next stage of my coaching career."
Cabrera was named the head coach of the Under17 Men's National Team in the fall of 2007. During his four years, he guided the U.S. to the Round of 16 in both the 2009 and 2011 FIFA U17 World Cups.