Thursday is an odd anniversary, one I’ve dubbed “Memorial Day.” It’s the day Chivas USA folded, two years ago, shutting down an MLS team with most folks moving on.
There’s some sort of cosmic coincidence in the air, then, as the Houston Dynamo hired former Chivas USA head coach Wilmer Cabrera as their head coach, reportedly to be announced on Friday. Cabrera led the doomed Goats in 2014, their final season, before being liquidated the day after the 2014 regular season. The team finished in seventh place in the Western Conference, well out of the playoffs but surprisingly their best finish in the standings since their last playoff season, in 2009.
Serving as head coach of the Dynamo’s new USL affiliate, Rio Grande Valley FC, this year, Cabrera guided the new club to the USL Playoffs.
The appointment comes following a tumultuous year for the Dynamo, in which they missed the MLS playoffs again, dumped their ineffective coach Owen Coyle midseason, and let longtime assistant and former player Wade Barrett run the team as interim head coach. Under Coyle the team played bad on both ends, aside from a few games to start the season where they scored a ton — under Barrett the defense was much improved but the attack was essentially nonexistent.
In the end, it appears the Dynamo wants to go in a different direction, not retaining Barrett as head coach, a surprise to many (including the players), but turning to Cabrera instead. It’s true, Cabrera has more head coaching experience, in youth, lower league, and MLS levels. His CUSA team finished the season very well, winning three of their final four games despite reports of the team’s demise widely circulating and having to work with a roster built entirely of cheap players, cast-offs and free transfers.
It seems like the Dynamo hope Cabrera is the next coming of FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja. And the duo worked together for the Colorado Rapids, as Cabrera served as an assistant under Pareja. But the jury is out if that is actually the case. Cabrera has experience, but basically in one-season bursts, in odd circumstances (Chivas USA’s last year, RGVFC’s first year, etc.). I think while some CUSA fans were not happy with his decisions in the first half of 2014, he won many over by the end of the season. At the same time, nobody was pinning success or failure on him. In some ways, that made his job much easier. But it also gave his tenure a giant asterisk — if the performances and results were discounted, how could he be fairly evaluated as a head coach?
And Pareja appears to be the best youngish coach in MLS by a country mile — only Jason Kreis’ track record would compare, and Kreis has endured some real bumps since leaving Real Salt Lake.
So it seems Cabrera will get a real chance at MLS level, and that’s good news for him. Who knows if he can turn around a team that’s in the doldrums, with a heavily flawed roster, but if that roster can be successfully overhauled, he may be able to remove the shackles of circumstance and show he can really hack it in MLS.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!