Chivas USA have their man. Finally.
Nearly two months after José Luis Real left the head coaching position vacant after a dismal year in Los Angeles, longtime U.S. Soccer youth coach and Colorado Rapids assistant Wilmer Cabrera (above) has stepped in to pick up the pieces.
Cabrera, 46, spent five years as the US Under-17 national team coach and led them to the Round of 16 at the 2009 and 2011 U-17 World Cups before joining the Rapids staff in 2012. He helped lead the club through a formative season that ended with a berth in the Western Conference playoffs, a place Chivas USA have not been since 2009.
“I’m really excited and motivated to be joining Chivas USA, as well as very grateful to the organization for the support they have given me,” Cabrera said in a statement. “It’s a big opportunity join an MLS professional club and an institution that wants to be one of the top teams in the league; a team that is not only eager to participate but that also wants to be competitive in MLS.
“I’m proud to be part of Chivas USA and MLS and I hope that this year the team can show that mindset and motivation in each and every of the 34 games we are going to play during the regular season.”
Per club and league policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Chivas USA won just six of 34 regular-season games last year and finished last place in the Western Conference. They appointed Mexican league coaching character José Luis Sánchez Solá as head coach ahead of last season only to fire him before the summer began, and Real struggled to fare much better in his first shot in MLS. He stepped down from the position on Nov. 25 to lead sister club Chivas de Guadalajara.
Cabrera becomes the eighth head coach in franchise history, and fifth since the club last made the postseason five years ago under Preki. The club’s streak of four consecutive seasons without a playoff berth is the second longest active run in the league, behind Toronto FC (7).
Colorado granted Chivas USA permission to speak with Cabrera about the postition in early December.
“We want to thank Wilmer for his service to the Rapids over the last two years,” Rapids technical director Paul Bravo said in a statement. “Our club is a place where coaches and players alike can develop, and we wish him luck in his new position.”
Cabrera was a member of the Colombian national team during his playing days and suited up in both the 1990 and 1998 World Cups. During his nine-year run with the national team, Cabrera earned 48 caps as a defender.
He played professionally for 18 years in Colombia, Argentina and Costa Rica, spending eight of those years with prestigious Colombian club América de Cali.
The Cabrera hiring is the latest during an offseason full of change for the Goats, who said in November that director of soccer Paco Palencia will take on the same duties with Chivas de Guadalajara. The club also parted ways with sporting president Dennis te Kloese on Dec. 23 after less than a year on the job.