Kévin Cabral has been a polarizing figure since his arrival to the LA Galaxy. From the long delay to his arrival for bureaucratic reasons, his sluggish start to the season, his brief stretch of incredible form, to the present day, where he’s become a bit of a fringe player.
Normally, a player being relegated to the bench for a spell wouldn't be newsworthy, but its the timing of all this that has interests piqued. Throughout the season, Cabral was a fixture either in the starting XI, or one of the first off the bench. As of late, his roles have been a bit reversed. When starting, he’s usually one of the first to come off, and more recently, when coming off the bench, seems to be the last option. This has not gone unnoticed.
In the post-match availability after the team’s recent 1-1 draw to LAFC, head coach Greg Vanney was asked about Cabral’s absences as of late, especially in a rivalry match where the team looked like they could have used his spark, and what he said didn't do too much to quell the questions.
“He played last game [against RSL], he didn't miss [it]. He came off of the bench in the last game and why he didn’t come in today is between Kévin and I, and our team, and some of the things we are looking for at this point in the season,” Vanney said. “It’s not always just about being able to run, sometimes in this part of the season we need a little extra something in the fight.”
Given not just the quote itself, but the tone in which it was stated, gave many reason to believe that there could be a bit more happening behind the scenes with the Frenchman. While a training ground dust-up seems unlikely, something definitely feels different. Vanney was correct, Cabral did come on as a sub when the team faced Real Salt Lake, however, at 88 minutes into the match. can we really call this a genuine appearance in spirit? Probably not.
The hard facts are, it’s winning time. The Galaxy find themselves in more of a fight for a postseason spot than they perhaps thought about a month ago. With every match meaning more and more going forward, Vanney is right in wanting more than just a change of pace. What’s clear is that the team are in a bit of a funk, hitting the proverbial wall after a great mid-season run, but if Cabral — a young Designated Player, remember — wants to be a key figure in restoring the team back to winning ways, he will have to earn that privilege.
“Kévin is aware of where we are at and needs to bring that every single day, we are in that stretch where you just got to compete, you have got to battle, you have to fight physically, you’ve got to do all the little things to help the team and I want him to fight through that right now and to push and he knows where we are at and he is going to get there because he has a lot of talent, but we want to just push him a little bit on some of the other stuff” expressed Vanney.
While many question what’s happened to Cabral, or whether this is already the beginning of the end, I maintain a bit of a different viewpoint. This very much felt like a coach trying to motivate a player he knows is talented. Sure, it’s not often a coach chooses to use the press conference to send a message, but it has happened. Vanney was honest in his response. Kévin will need to do more to see the field. Given the situation the team are in, that’s not an unreasonable statement to make. So while his comments may have come across as stern, or weighted with coded message, for me, it wasn't that deep. Just a coach, trying to find a way to motivate his team, in the most critical stretch of the season.
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