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LA Galaxy 2022 Player Postmortem: Kévin Cabral

Can’t sugarcoat it, he had the yips.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Charlotte FC Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll admit I was wrong about Kévin Cabral. After a rocky debut season with the LA Galaxy in 2021, I stressed patience about the young Designated Player attacker. He showed an ability to get in good scoring positions, to stretch the field, and a good touch, but the final product wasn’t there. Given his age and the raw tools he demonstrated, I had more faith in his ability to come good in 2022, to hopefully build some bulk and find the scoring touch to put it all together.

But it didn’t come together for Cabral in Year 2. If anything, he took a step backwards, matching his 2021 Goals+Assists total of seven, playing almost the exact same number of minutes, as he seemed infected by a bad case of the yips.

“The yips” is an inexplicable ability to perform for a high-level athlete. Cabral’s increasingly bad decision making, and his perplexing inability to use his body to do soccer things when under pressure, became a textbook example.


Lowlights piled up for the guy as the season wore on, and while no attacker is clinical with 100 percent of their chances, even the very best, Cabral clearly looked like he was afraid to shoot as the season wore on. And after giving him a litany of chances, Greg Vanney mostly brought him off the bench for the final two months of the season.

Here are Cabral’s competitive stats with the Galaxy in 2022:

Kévin Cabral LA Galaxy 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 33 23 1,689 1 3 35 11 1 1
U.S. Open Cup 4 3 266 2 1 4 2 2 0
Playoffs 2 0 49 0 0 1 1 0 0
Total 39 26 2,004 3 4 40 14 3 1

On the eve of the Galaxy’s last game of the season, Vanney was called to defend his unproductive player. I don’t begrudge Vanney standing up for Cabral in public, that’s pretty much what his job is, but the subtext of “Yeah, he can’t score and it’s gotten to him, no doubt,” wasn’t even subtext, it was actual text.

But Vanney did this in response to Galaxy fans booing Cabral when he came on in LA’s playoff win over Nashville SC, a game they won, by the way. The standards of fans are high, understandably so, but do you really think a player who was short on confidence would hear how disappointed fans were to see him enter a game, and then somehow perform well? Come on, now.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Cabral’s best game of the season, the U.S. Open Cup win over LAFC. He had a goal and an assist in that game, plus he helped set up the third goal on the night for the home side.

But one good game does not a season make. If the Galaxy had won the Open Cup, ok, maybe we could elevate that performance a bit, but it was ultimately one game, out of 39, and for a DP, that’s not a good hit rate.

This is tangible in his scouting report graph on Compared to comparable wingers across eight similar leagues, Cabral is severely underperforming his xG number, like to a truly stunning degree.

You can see why Vanney wanted to stay the course with him, but even though Cabral does frequently get in positions to score, like the coach said, he almost never manages to create a goal. It’s just not good enough.

There have been rumors so far this offseason that the Galaxy are shopping Cabral, which could be wishful thinking but I have no doubt if a French club (or any club) stepped up today and offered any kind of decent transfer fee (not to recoup the fee LA paid to Valenciennes, just one to help them feel a bit better about taking a bath on this one), the Galaxy would take it in an instant. Freeing up a DP slot, an international roster slot, and over $1.6 million in salary would be worth it, even taking a loss on the deal.

That seems unlikely, and between two underperforming DPs this season, Cabral and Douglas Costa, the Galaxy can’t buy out both players this offseason, if they even want to buy out one. They should, but assuming there’s no transfer/trade market for either player (which seems pretty likely), they either need to run it back with these guys and hope things change, or let one of them go. Costa performed marginally better, but he’s older (aka, likely well past his best), he makes roughly three times what Cabral does, and as an actual household name, more is expected of him. In contrast, Cabral was picked from obscurity, he’s only 23, and while I don’t think we can say he’s going to turn it all around in MLS at this point, there is still theoretically a chance he can draw transfer interest in the future and/or find some measure of form.

And ultimately, I’m really not one to hammer on players, but Costa knows how this sport works, I think he can handle being criticized for his play. It’s clear Cabral has been weighed down by his lacking performances adding up and the criticism of fans and media. I don’t blame fans for being disappointed in his play, but it’s worth remembering he’s a guy, ultimately he’s just like all of us. We can wish for better play in his job, but don’t get personal about it, don’t abuse him, please. I think the chance he’ll come good for the Galaxy is getting remote, but I do hope he comes good one way or another, and regardless, keeps his head up.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.