Rough Riders in the World Cup: Wilmer Cabrera

Written by Michael Lewis

With the U.S. men’s national team coming off a 1-1 draw vs. Wales in their first game of the World Cup in Qatar, the Long Island Rough Riders start a series on players who wore the team’s colors who participated in what many people consider to be “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Those are goalkeeper Tony Meola (USA), defender Wilmer Cabrera (Colombia), forward Edson Buddle (USA) and current team member, Joe Scally (USA).

After a 19-year career in his native Colombia, Wilmer Cabrera journeyed to the United States and stood out for the Rough Riders during the 2004 and 2005 USL seasons. He played 25 times for the Riders, scoring four goals.

He was a member of Colombia’s 1990 World Cup squad but did not play. But eight years later in 1998, Cabrera started and played the full 90 minutes in all three Group G matches. The Colombians failed to reach the knockout, finishing second to Romania and England with a 1-2-0 record. Colombia dropped a 1-0 decision to Romania, bounced back with a 1-0 win over Tunisia but lost to England, 2-0, in its final match.

Cabrera, who also played in Copa America four times (1989, 1991, 1995 and 1997), represented Colombia 48 times on the world stage, scoring three goals.

Born in Cartagena, Colombia on Sept. 15, 1967, Cabrera played most of his career in his native country. That included stints at Santa Fe, America de Cali, Independiente, Millonarios, Tolima and Chico. He also performed for Herediano in Costa Rica) for three seasons.

After retiring as a player, Cabrera entered coaching. He guided B.W. Gottschee for two years before he started a five-year tenure as coach of the U.S. Under-17 national team. He has guided Chivas USA (1014), Houston Dynamo (2016-19) and Montreal Impact (2019) in MLS. Since 2021, Cabrera has directed Rio Grande Valley FC Toros in the USL Championship. In 2022, Rio Grande Valley finished sixth in the Western Conference with a 14-13-7 mark.

The USA kicks off the 2002 World Cup against Wales on Monday, Nov. 21, continues against England on Friday, Nov. 25 and completes Group B play vs. Iran on Tuesday, Nov. 29. All games will be televised on FOX at 2 p.m. each day.

The Rough Riders are holding a special Watch Party at their indoor facility in Uniondale, N.Y. on Nov. 25. For more information, click here.


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