Q & A With U.S. U-17 Men's National Team Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera
ussoccer.com: What is the purpose of the upcoming trip?
Wilmer Cabrera: “We’re going to prepare in England first, and the tournament is in Italy. We want to go to England and we’ll have two friendly games against Manchester City and Wigan, which have very good academies and we’ll be playing against the U-18 teams, so ‘92s and ‘93s. We want to compete and prepare ourselves, get used to the speed of the game that everybody plays in Europe which is totally different from what we’re used to.”
ussoccer.com: What was behind the decision to train in England?
WC: “It was a good option for us. We’ve been in England before with the past cycle, and it helped prepare us for the World Cup. So when this opportunity came up to play against those youth teams and then go to Italy for a tournament, it was a good preparation for the guys so we took it. Hopefully we can take advantage this time."
ussoccer.com: What are you expecting from the tournament in Italy?
WC: “We need to compete at this level. Most of the time we play friendly games, and what we’ve found is that we have to compete in these kind of competitions. This is what we’re looking for to really find out what kind of level, and what kind of pressure our players can deal with, who can handle it and who can compete and represent the national team at that level.”
ussoccer.com: What kind of competition are you going to see in Gradisca?
WC: “We’re playing against Mexico, who we know since we’ve played them here and we know it’s going to be a tough game. We’ll also play Romania and Croatia, which are Eastern European teams and we know they’re traditionally big, fast teams so it’s going to be a great experience.”
ussoccer.com: What do you hope to accomplish over there at this point in the cycle?
WC: “It’s their first international trip, so really we want to just see what we have. Let’s see what we have and what we need to improve and how we’re going to get exposed. If we do get exposed we’re going to see what we really need to work on and what players respond well and which are not ready yet. It’s all about learning more about our players at that level, because that is the level at which we need to compete. It’s the reality and we need to know where we are right now.”
ussoccer.com: Why is this trip important a year from qualifying?
WC: “It’s important to compete a year before qualifying. It’s going to give us a good test and we’re going to know where we’re weak and where we’re strong. We’re going to be exposed in different areas and that’s going to help us a lot moving forward. We have to compete at this time of year when we’ve had 2-3 months of training and now we’re ready to get going. Then we’ll know what we’ll need to work on, what we’ll need to fix, and we’ll be ready to work on those things when we come back.”
ussoccer.com: What do you hope individual players will take away from this trip?
WC: “Normally what happens is that these players become more mature after these trips because at their age, we tell them things and it’s hard to listen when they are young don’t know. We tell them that the speed of the game is faster, that the players are faster, more experienced and more savvy than the competition we see here. After they experience that themselves, they’re going to come back and understand what we’ve been saying to them and they’re going to be more mature in their preparation and practices every day.”