The new coach of the U.S. U17 team, Wilmer Cabrera, is going to be introduced by USSF president Sunil Gulati via conference call to the media today.
Yep, I'm on hold again. Same peppy swing music playing. I'll admit to liking the big band era, and had fun during the revival back during the Swingers period in the 1990's, but the same tune again and again is annoying.
Ha! Sunil Gulati just admitted his Spanish is less than perfect. True, but I'd admit the same of myself. It always cracks me up when people say Landon Donovan's Spanish is perfect. It's not. The fact that it exists at all is a good thing, but it's not nearly perfect.
Wilmer is on now, talking about his experience as a player and how he thinks it will help the young players he coaches.
Jeff Carlise asks about the Hispanic community's involvement in the youth ranks. Wilmer says he's just looking for good players, no matter where they are from.
Brian Gomez asks about the biggest challenge faced by Wilmer in his new gig. Wilmer says continuing and improving the success of the U17 team and developing players for the full national team.
Sunil adds that Wilmer's experience as a youth player who came up to play for his national team will inform his coaching.
Sunil talks about how he knew Wilmer for a long time, back in his playing days. He tried to bring him to MLS at one point.
"Fun to play" is part of Wilmer's coaching philosophy. Wilmer says that's the way he learned.
Sunil says that Bradenton is being assessed against the alternative - and if the alternative becomes the better option, Bradenton could be changed.
I ask Wilmer if, since he came up through the youth system of a pro soccer team, if he prefers that to be the future model, rather than Bradenton.
Wilmer says U.S. soccer is not to going to follow one route - that the MLS academy system may look good right now, but it needs to be evaluated for effectiveness before the current U17 system is scrapped.
Then I asked Sunil about the language issue as a potential team divider. Back in 2005, I covered the U17 World Cup in Peru, which featured a number of Spanish-speaking players - the Farfan brothers, David Arvizu, Diego Restrepo - and one of their teammates expressed frustration that sometimes they spoke only in Spanish. He felt left out, and said it happened on the field on occasion as well.
Sunil says he's disappointed that it would ever be considered an issue, especially considering how so many of the top teams in the world - he mentions Barcelona - play well with a variety of languages and cultures. He assumes Wilmer will sometimes speak in Spanish to players who are comfortable in the language, but primarily will communicate in English.
Wilmer says the most important language is the language of soccer.
Someone asks Wilmer about the soccer differences between Colombia and the U.S. Wilmer says it is huge. Wilmer says that soccer is life - or survival for some Colombians. They have to succeed because they don't have other options. In the U.S., he points out, there are many options and education is better, so players aren't motivated the same way. They have to have a passion for the game to dedicate themselves to it.
Wilmer cites the large number of American kids who play soccer - and he mentions the freedom the game gives them versus the restrictions of other sports.
Sunil mentions that the hiring of Wilmer is also a concrete step for the Hispanic outreach initiative.
Sunil says the changes have elicited a range of reactions from the American soccer community. He says he's not trying to turn the world upside-down, but nudge it in a direction that encompasses more of the general society in the U.S. today.
Sunil also explains that a variety of characteristics led him to pick Cabrera for the job. His playing experience, his coaching philosophy, his bilingual skill and his experience with different cultures, especially the Latin community.
That's all folks. Podcast will be up later on the U.S. Soccer site for direct quotes.