When FC Dallas acquired Walter Cabrera on loan from Paraguayan first-division side General Diaz on Aug. 7, the Texas-based side added the 24-year-old defender to provide some much-needed depth on their back line.
Cabrera was on the 18-man game roster for Dallas’ 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Friday at Toyota Stadium but did not play. However, he started and played the full 90 for the FCD reserves in a 3-1 road loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Pro on Sunday.
He figures to also be among the first 11 for the reserves again this weekend as they return to the field against the Chicago Fire reserves on Sunday.
Cabrera addressed the media for the first time on Tuesday after training and talked about how quickly he has acclimated to his new club in just over two weeks. “I feel great. I came into a locker room that’s really friendly, really happy and really comfortable for me, so so far, so good,” he said via a translator.
Seeing time with the FCD reserves has allowed him to become more familiar with his teammates’ tendencies on the field, but also allows to get some games under his belt to help maintain his fitness.
“The reserve games have helped me kind of learn the team’s style of play, how the other teams are playing and what I can do to enhance my game and better my game out here in this league,” Cabrera said.
However, for FCD fans wondering when the newest member of Oscar Pareja’s roster might see his debut with the first team, Pareja iterated that he is taking things slow and is not going to rush the young South American as he acclimates not only to new teammates and a new country, but also to a new league in MLS after two goals in 61 games with General Diaz.
“He needs time to adapt, understand the league- the pace, the rhythm. It is what it is. But he’s a great kid and he has character. It’s good. We’ll see but we’re getting him in reserve games and he’s involved in this part. Good news is that we have been solid defensively. That buys us a little time,” Pareja said.
In the club-issued press release announcing his signing, the club stated that Cabrera was someone who could play at either center back or right back. But Cabrera said he’s most comfortable in the middle. However, no matter where Pareja decides to play him, he sees plenty to like about his newest addition once he fully acclimates to the demands of MLS.
“I can tell you that he’s a very good 1-v-1 defender and I think he has great skills to take the ball. In the air, I see some quality there, timing and aggressiveness,” Pareja said. “He can play on the right or as a central back. Let’s let him jell a little bit.”
And like many players from South America, he came to MLS with an already established opinion about the league. Now that he’s here, those initial impressions he had about the league, which were all positive, have definitely been reinforced.
“It’s a league that’s growing. It’s a league’s that’s very competitive. This league has great players in it right now. It’s inviting and offering lots of other good players opportunities to come in and get a chance to play in MLS. It’s a league that’s definitely increasing in its global profile,” Cabrera said.
So FCD gets a look at a young defender for the next few months on a low-risk, potentially high-return loan. If Cabrera doesn’t work out no harm is done as it’s just a loan, an arrangement the club can decide not to continue after the season ends.
If he does get on the field and makes a favorable impression on Pareja and the rest of the organization, he could be a valuable player to retain going forward. But Pareja is right not to rush Cabrera on the field before he is fully adjusted to MLS.
After all, that’s a transition the first-year FCD head coach knows all about since he made the switch to MLS from his native Colombia in 1998, first with the New England Revolution and later that same season with the Dallas Burn.
Pareja knows that acclimation process doesn’t merely happen overnight, so taking it slow with Cabrera makes sense. The young defender was brought in for depth in the first place - even if he doesn’t see the field much if at all over the final nine games of the season, he still will have served his original purpose.