The Houston Dynamo have appointed Wilmer Cabrera as the first head coach of the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, the club’s new hybrid affiliate set to join USL in 2016. Cabrera was introduced at a press conference in McAllen, Texas on Tuesday afternoon.
Cabrera was selected by the Dynamo technical staff, led by general manager Matt Jordan and head coach Owen Coyle. In addition to his duties as head coach of the Toros, the 48-year-old will serve as an extension of the Dynamo first team technical staff during the preseason and following the conclusion of the USL season in October.
“As an organization we are very pleased to welcome Wilmer Cabrera to the Houston Dynamo technical staff as our head coach of the RGVFC Toros,” Jordan said. “He brings a wealth of experience at all levels of soccer in North America, which made him an ideal candidate. His experience, work ethic and proven track record of guiding some of the top young talent in the U.S. to the professional ranks will be a big asset for our club moving forward.”
“I am honored and exited to join the Houston Dynamo organization,” Cabrera said. “The Toros are an important project – a USL team in partnership with the RGV organization. It will be a combination of development with the top young players coming from the Dynamo Academy and drafted players from the college level who want to become professionals. It will also serve the players from the Dynamo first team who are recovering from injuries or need game-related competition. The USL is a professional league and an important piece in the system to prepare and nurture high quality players for MLS clubs.”
The Colombia native served as head coach of the United States Under-17 national team from October 2007 to January 2012. Following a two-year spell as assistant coach with the Colorado Rapids, he was head coach of Chivas USA in 2014, the club’s final season in MLS.
As a player, Cabrera made 48 appearances for the Colombia national team, including three starts at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and a role at four Copa America tournaments (1989, ’91, ’95 and ’97). His 20-year professional playing career began at age 17 with Sante Fe in Colombia and included spells in Argentina and Costa Rica before a final stop in the United States with the Long Island Rough Riders.
“This is truly an exciting day for the Houston Dynamo as it’s the first step of many to facilitate the gap in development between our U-18s and the First Team,” Jordan continued. “Narrowing this gap will help us to complete our player development structure.”
Cabrera guided the U.S. U-17s through two U-17 World Cup qualifying cycles ahead of the 2009 and 2011 FIFA U-17 FIFA World Cups, including progression to the Round of 16 at both tournaments. Cabrera also led his squad to a first-place finish at the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship.
During his time at the U.S. Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida the former defender helped develop current MLS veterans Juan Agudelo, Perry Kitchen, Luis Gil, Jack McInerney, Kellyn Acosta, Dillon Serna, Jordan Allen, Jarred Watts, Sebastian Lletget, Marc Pelosi, Bradford Jamieson IV, Zach Pfeffer as well as Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht), Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach II), Paul Arriola and Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana).
Cabrera’s career in youth development began as an assistant coach with Suffolk (New York) Community College followed by a stint as coach with the BW Gottschee Academy in New York City.
Over the past year, Cabrera has worked in various capacities, including scouting and technical study. He was part of the CONCACAF Technical Study Group that analyzed the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras. Next, he was a member of the FIFA Technical Study Group for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. He joined the CONCACAF Technical Study Group at the 2015 Gold Cup in the United States as well the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship. Cabrera also observed the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica (World Cup qualifying tournament) as well as the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship in Uruguay (U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament).
The Dynamo and RGVFC formed a hybrid affiliation in July. As part of the partnership, the Dynamo control the technical side of the club, including the selection and formation of the coaching staff as well as the construction of the roster. RGVFC, which operates the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the NBA D-League affiliate of the Houston Rockets, will manage business operations for the club, including the current construction of a 9,400-seat state-of-the-art soccer stadium in Edinburg, Texas, 330 miles southwest of Houston, across the Mexican border from Reynosa.
The Dynamo will continue to construct the inaugural RGVFC roster ahead of the club’s first preseason in March 2016. Dynamo assistant general manager Nick Kowba will assume a large role with the RGVFC technical staff and player personnel and help guide its collaboration with the Dynamo first team.