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USSF Coaching Done Deal(s)

Former Colombian international Wilmer Cabrera, whose name first surfaced on the Insider last night, has been hired by the USSF to oversee the under-17 boys' program in Bradenton. This is a significant development, for the fed has turned to a Latin player/coach to run a prominent youth team. Prez Sunil Gulati said there would be much-needed Latin influence infused into U.S. player development and he has taken a first step in delivering on that promise.

Cabrera, 40, has lived in the New York area for about four years. He finished his playing career with the Long Island Rough Riders in the USL and has coaching experience on the youth, college and U.S. under-18 levels.

Also, no surprise, word is getting around that the USSF has decided to retain Thomas Rongen as its under-20 men's coach following the team's excellent performance at the U-20 World Cup in Canada this past summer.

UPDATE: The USSF has just formally announced both deals. Check out their Web site for full details.

By Steve Goff  |  October 25, 2007; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  U.S. men's national team  
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Next: Playoff Matchday 1: DCU at Chicago [updated]


How much of the success/failure this summer was because of Rongen?

Posted by: sitruc | October 25, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

How much success/failure is attributed to any coach? Rongen did a good job building chemistry with players from MLS, Europe and college, the players seemed to like him and his work, no reason to make a change for this particular team.

Posted by: Goff | October 25, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Rumours, please!!

Posted by: Soy United! | October 25, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Excellent performance in Canada? I thought the team underachieved. And any good performance was in spite of Rongen's coaching. He made the exact same defensive-minded changes every game, regardless of the situation.

I really feel Rongen is a poor coach. How does he keep getting these jobs? I shouldn't be surprised, as it appears that everyone coaching in the USSF is a lifer at this point. If they actually get fired, they just shuffle them around.

...but man, that 96 Mutiny team was AWESOME!!!

Posted by: Nick | October 25, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I've always felt the U-20 wasn't about winning it, so much as it was building team cohesion, pro-style skill and adjusting to big time pressure. In that sense Rongewn did more than just about any coach. Those kids lost, yes, but the way they beat Brazil will stay with them always, when they're playing all over the world. Rongen is an excellent steward, which is what the U-20's need.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 25, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse


The USSF actually does something right -- hires a Latin coach with pedigree to shake up its youth system -- and people are whining about Rongen's tactical decisions in an international tournament in which his team beat Brazil and reached the quarterfinals. Indeed, if it weren't for the coach, the United States of America would have surely been world champions. (sigh)

Posted by: Goff | October 25, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse


Produce rumors or stop teasing.

Posted by: cubicle | October 25, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Wow , don't know about the coach, but i have to love the south american influence coming to the USSF coaching ranks.

Wow Sunil does something right

Yes, please tease us with more details from the rumors, or just fill us in completely mr Goff

Posted by: vasco | October 25, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse


Are these the rumors you teased us about yesterday?

Posted by: Dsmac | October 25, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Cubicle, Soy United

This is Goff's blog. He can write whatever he wants whenever he wants. I'm sure that he's working diligently to provide the info on these rumors, and he warned us it might take a little while. Please have some patience and show a little respect for everything Goff has given us.

Besides, the U-17 coaching change could have some profound longterm implications on US soccer (MLS, too). This is significant news in its own right.

Posted by: iammrben | October 25, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Dear iammrben, bite me.

Goff, do you feel chastised by those of us who ask for more details?

Posted by: Soy United! | October 25, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe that Rongen had anything to do with the players' skill or development on the u20s. That was all happening at the club level. What I saw Rongen do was make defense-first substitutions, regardless of the situation. The same exact subs each game, actually. Up a goal? Send on defenders. Down a goal? Send on the same three defenders.

The way I see it, that team was capable of going farther in that tournament, and they didn't. I thought Rongen made questionable tactical decisions in each game, therefore I believe he takes a large part of the blame.

I've just never seen any evidence, in MLS (Chivas???) or with the US, that he's useful in any way.

Posted by: Nick | October 25, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

"and people are whining about Rongen's tactical decisions"

To be fair, there was one negative comment about Rongen, two positive ones, and one neutral. Then there are people like me who think that Rongen did a solid job and don't want to discuss this any more.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 25, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I could not agree more with Goff on coaching -- failure is too quickly assigned to easily-scapegoated coaches, while success will be lauded upon players. There are very few instances in sports where, IMO, coaching can make a vast difference -- American football, for example, where they are calling the plays that have to be run.

Posted by: RK | October 25, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I will share more information in good time.

Like I said last night, BE PATIENT and let me do my work.

Right now, at this very moment, the u-17 (and u-20) news is what I have to offer.


Posted by: Goff | October 25, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Wilmer? How unfortunate. I guess his parents did not like him.

He seems kinda light on the coaching experience. Suffolk Community College. Why not get a D1 college coach? George Gelnovatch jumps out at me as an obvious choice.

Posted by: bobf | October 25, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was my duty as a fan to ridicule coaches and assume I could do the job better.

New England under Rongen or New England under Nicol?
Chivas under Rongen or Chivas under Preki?

I'll take the non-Rongen team in both cases.

PS--Preki for USA coach!

Posted by: Nick | October 25, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Why not Gelnovatch? As Goff said the other day, some college coaches like it where they are. I'd love to be able to live in Cville, too, and coach soccer without the stress of worrying about winning, or people on blogs writing about me ;)

Posted by: RK | October 25, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

1. Rongen has a rep of having a good eye for talent and doing a good job building the creative confidence (willingness to take risks on the field) of players, especially younger players. I don't like his tactical decisions and some man management skills but for U20's I think he's fine.

2. Cabrera is BIG news. It's a sea change for the USSF. I also think this gives USSF a bit more credibility with hispanics. More importantly, it makes a statement about wanting to cultivate more technical skill and creative attacking ability (read: less direct soccer and more smarts in taking apart a defense on the field).

Now I have no idea how good of a coach Cabrera is. And being a residency-based coach calls for a lot of organizational skills--kids are going to school, you've got practice every day, you're monitoring behavior and health, directing a bunch of assistants. If someone is organizationally-challenged, than it's tough: there is only so much that a team manager or assistant administrator can do if the head guy is good tactically or a fine teacher but lousy at the details. So it's going to take a little time to see how Senior Cabrera is at this latter stuff. Still, I think it's a huge move.

Oh, and Goff--kudos on breaking the story about Cabrera.

Posted by: JoeW | October 25, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Why not get a D1 college coach? George Gelnovatch jumps out at me as an obvious choice.

Posted by: bobf | October 25, 2007 03:25 PM

Do you have any reason to believe that Gelnovatch would be interested? In yesterday's online chat, Goff made an observation about why few coaches go from colleges to MLS that may also apply here: "Believe it or not, many college coaches are perfectly happy where they are. They have long-term job security, no media and fan pressure...and they make a killing on summer soccer camps."

Posted by: Section 410 | October 25, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

goff has it figured out - promise big rumors in an unspecified timeframe and he'll generate enough traffic from the nuts that he'll surpass even the redskins blog!

j/k steve!

Posted by: pat | October 25, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I was teasing about your teasing, mostly.

Your "bud" Galarcep does that tease tee-hee all the time, promising to post something and then not.

Posted by: cubicle | October 25, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to have to go ahead and agree with Nick on this one. He touched on this, but I'd like to take it a step further... In the South Korea game, we were getting played off the field. We made one sub--McCarty in the 52nd minute. When we were failing to attack against Uruguay, he brought on McCarty in the 54th minute. After we went down a goal in the 73rd, he waited 10 minutes to bring on another attacker to push for extra time (not to mention he put on Akpan in place of the injured Altidore...Akpan, as I suspected at the time, ended up being a bad sub--he disappeared the entire half). Against Austria, tied at half, getting outplayed, he made two substitutions in regulation--Dax McCarty in the 63rd and Tim Ward (defender for defender) in the 85th. Ward went on to play even worse than he did against Korea--perhaps the worst 30 minutes of soccer by any player for the US in that tournament.

That team had a lot of talent and a lot of individuals performed very well. The team should be proud of themselves. That said, I fail to see how Rongen "coached them to the quarter finals." I think everything good in that tournament came from our players, and most of the bad stuff came from Rongen's silly decisions. I bet you if you let Rongen manage Italy in 2006, he probably could have taken them to the quarters, too...

Posted by: Michael | October 25, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Who you calling a nut?! ;-)

Guilty as charged.

Posted by: Soy United! | October 25, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

It does not make sense that a D1 coach would be happy where they are. I guess the corporate world has corrupted me. Doesn't everyone always want more??!!?? Wanting more and satisfying an ego would be reason enough to want the U17 job. I think a top flight D1 coach that could be groomed to move up to the U20's then the national team sure seems like a great progression!

But look at Bruce Arena - totally successful at UVA - the DCU. I struggle to say he was successful on the national level since the program was pitiful before he got there.

Posted by: bobf | October 25, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

One of these United rumors has to be about the shirt sponsor for next season, does it not?

I'm guessing the other one has to do with end line seating and/or a player from South America.

Posted by: Shirt Sponsor | October 25, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Let's go, D.C. United!!!!

Play hard and kick some Chicago butt!!!

Posted by: Smitty | October 25, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Two observations:

1. I've always liked Rongen. Good guy, great temperament. I hope he does well.

2. Given that contributions to the SI tail off after 3 pm, most Soccer Insiders are government bureaucrats or bankers. OR happy hour begins sooner than I thought.

Posted by: Joe Doc | October 25, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

One of these United rumors has to be about the shirt sponsor for next season, does it not?

At 10:08 a.m. Goff stated: "The rumors I am chasing have nothing to do with the shirt sponsor (which is going to happen for next season) or the stadium saga (which will continue to go around in circles and someday stop in dc or the suburbs)."

Posted by: Section 410 | October 25, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

One point on the coaching debate. Coaching is not only what happens on the pitch between the whistles. Rongen had weeks leading up to and during the tournament where he was with those kids every minute.

I'm not a Rongen fan, hated him at the helm in DC. Thought the team underperformed on his watch.

But you gotta look at the whole package he brought to the table. The result for our boys at the tournament this summer was terrific! Sure, you'd love to see them win the whole shooting match, but only one team gets to do that! I was proud of the way they played.

Same thing for the Bruce in '02. '06 sucked, but I was nothing short of absolutely acstatic in '02. That's gotta count for something. Gotta.

Posted by: Matte | October 25, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Nick and others have just stated with no other reasoning that the Under 20 team was supremely talanted and Rondgen held them back. I watched a lot those games and the end results were. The Under 20's were decemt and probably overachieved to reach the quarters. The US has a long long ways to go at all levels in international football before the lofy levels expected by some. Rongen did a great job.

Posted by: A Hardwick | October 25, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. Rongen is the ONLY major US coach to go to a major tournament and keep his job.

Posted by: Kim | October 25, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Man, writing that last post brought back some memories. Do you remember what that felt like? After that Germany match? To be able to hold your head up and say, "we really went the distance with some of the best in the world!" God, that was great!

'02 was the best soccer memory I've got from a lifetime of playing and now coaching. It was a truely euphoric couple of weeks.

I just hope I get to see that beautiful trophy come home to US soil at some point during my lifetime.

Posted by: Matte | October 25, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

mls rumor blog says:

STADIUMS: DC Stadium still alive and kicking

A DC based source which is known to us and highly regarded informs us that much of what has been written about the collapse of the Poplar Point stadium deal has been "smoke in mirrors". Basically this source is stating that the stadium at Poplar Point will be built and is going forward but according to a source within DC Mayor Fenty's office, the appearance of an open process is more important than the speed of a decision on going forward. The delay is basically political cover for the mayor when he inevitably adopts the DC United Holdings development plan for Poplar Point. In recent weeks the pressure has been on the mayors office from residents in Ward 8, the area near where the development is to be built, and several DC city council members to make good on promises made to the area. Our source left us with the following tidbit, "Don't be surprised if something is announced at RFK next month in front of the home fans and the whole nation."

A DC Stadium announcement at MLS Cup? Could be.

Posted by: from Europe | October 25, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Is the mls rumor blog up to Goff's standards, in terms of not being anonymous, etc.?

Posted by: Section 410 | October 25, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

from Europe, suprised Goff hasn't whacked your pipi, yet, for quoting that blog... he's slapped me down once already for it a few weeks ago and someone else yesterday... it's verboten!

Posted by: Soy United! | October 25, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

After I posted the above I think I remember getting slapped down for posting a URL to the blog... I don't recall if quoting it is the same level of foul...

Posted by: Soy United! | October 25, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

from my experience: NO

Posted by: from Europe | October 25, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Il Bruce kept his job after the 2002 World Cup.

Posted by: jgildea | October 25, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse


Unless you're trying to drive up the numbers on the SI, I wouldn't post something that says "checking on two rumors with major implications for the DCU ballclub" without further info. That'll just drive people nuts, particularly in this globalized, 24-hour-news-cycle world.

Keep up the awesome work!

Posted by: Juan-John | October 25, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Smokin' Mirrors is a good name for a band.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 25, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

MLS rumors blog is useless (though I'm hoping he/she gets it right for once and this one is true)

Posted by: d, dc | October 25, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

While it may be good for MacFarlane and us, one must admit that such a flip-flop will likely cause further damage to the District's reputation in the business community. After all, developers are putting real effort and real resources into preparing those responses to the RFEI.

Posted by: Section 410 | October 25, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

MLS rumors is totally bogus but I got to admit he rumor mongers about all the right things that fans of this league want to hear. DPs, expansion and stadiums. There is so LITTLE information about any of these things that his blog fills the information gaps that we crave. BS or not.

Posted by: Mountaineer Pride | October 25, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I agree that coaching isn't entirely "between the whistles," as someone stated, but you can't deny that the decisions made during the match are a huge part of the coach's job. I think my last post demonstrated that Rongen failed on this level. I don't see why we can't have it both ways (assuming you're right about Rongen's motivating force)--a coach who can both rally the troops AND make meaningful, game-changing substitutions. Let me ask you this...what did Rongen do (at any level) after 1996. NOTE: in 1996, he was gifted perhaps the most talented team in MLS. I believe he got fired from DCU and Chivas...

You guys may think it's silly for me to say the boys got to the quarters on their talent, but I think it's even more ridiculous for you to credit the success of the team to Rongen. And someone said we overachieved... Does anyone here honestly think we should have lost to Austria? Would anyone here honestly sub defender for defender (especially when that sub is Tim Ward) in a tied-up game? Rongen was playing for penalties until it was too late--when Austria scored in extra time. Yes, yes, this is one game. I'm just tired of Rongen getting credit for taking arguably our most talented u-20 crop to the quarters. No ammount of motivation or spirit-building off the field can excuse a coaches fundamental lack of managing abilities on the field.

I'm very proud of our boys--they fought hard. I just think we need to start judging Rongen by his decision's rather than the TEAM's results. Say you were coaching a team with a weak right back. Despite this, when you entered the playoffs of your league, you made it all the way to the semis, perhaps further than expected. Would you keep your weak right back just becaues of the team's performance? Of course not. Maybe Rongen's not the worst coach out there, but I have a hard time believing we can't do better.

Posted by: Michael | October 25, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Rongen get fired from New England, too?

Posted by: Soy United! | October 25, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"Same thing for the Bruce in '02. '06 sucked, but I was nothing short of absolutely acstatic in '02. That's gotta count for something. Gotta."
Counts for enough that when I saw him on the flight down to last year's MLS Cup I shook his hand and said, "Thank you for all you've done."

Ear to ear smile in response from Bruce.

Yeah, damned right it's gotta.

Posted by: seahawkdad | October 25, 2007 6:53 PM | Report abuse

One more thing...

Although I can't really argue with his off-the-field abilities, I must say I can't respect any manager who treats the matches like Football Manager 2008--McCarty on between the 55-65th minutes almost every game? Strikingly similar to my strategy with Peter Crouch in last year's version of the game. Only kidding...kind of.

Posted by: Michael | October 25, 2007 8:53 PM | Report abuse


The USSF actually does something right -- hires a Latin coach with pedigree to shake up its youth system -- and people are whining about Rongen's tactical decisions in an international tournament in which his team beat Brazil and reached the quarterfinals. Indeed, if it weren't for the coach, the United States of America would have surely been world champions. (sigh)"

I'd just like to point out a couple things. First of all, it seems this is a response to a post by Nick (I happen to agree with him), and nowhere in there does he say they would have "surely been world champions." He said he felt they underachieved, which is completely reasonable. They had two good games--Brazil and Poland. The other three? A draw with a weak-ish Korean team. As pointed out earlier, the only sub made that game was Dax McCarty around the 50th or 60th--the team was struggling and no substitutions were really made to correct the problem/push for the win. Similarly, the team underachieved against mediocre opposition in Uruguay and Austria. Rongen made his typical McCarty subs (as referenced above), defender-for-defender, and only after they fell behind, a push for the goal with an offensive substitution.

That U-20 team looked great at times, but I don't see why Rongen gets credit for taking them to the quarters when (at least during the games) he never really made useful managerial decisions. (I'm opening up a whole other can of worms here, but I'd argue the team didn't look to have "great chemistry" in 3/5 games...)

I think what the oft-criticized Nick was saying (a point which is completely valid) that Rongen didn't really do anything to help that team out. He has failed at every other job he has held, and despite the nice-on-paper result, he didn't do a stellar job with the U-20s. It's really easy to fall into the trap of judging a coach by good-looking results rather than their acutal performance. Was the US even-money to win the World Cup? No, but no one ever claimed this. All I know is that team played two good (great?) games, and three really flat ones against mediocre opponents. And, we did bust out of the tourney against Austria--a game we really should have won. I think it's completely fair to say we should have won that game and made the semis. Like I said, "quarters" looks great on paper, but if you look at our draw, we should have made the quarters...semis even. Someone said our U-20s are way off the rest of the world. Every article I read about the U-20 WC in the lead up (foreign journals included) listed the US as one of the 4 or 5 favorites to challenge for the title.

Yeah, the U-17 move was a good one, but that doesn't mean I don't have the right to whine about a poor decision for the U-20s. I'm just amazed that so many people like Rongen this much. On the other hand, I'm glad some people out there are willing to be critical--if we aren't, we end up with "lifers," to borrow from Nick. Criticism and close monitoring is what allowed for the good move on the U-17 side.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2007 10:26 PM | Report abuse

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