Jim Gabarra has been the Washington Freedom's Head Coach since 2000, from the WUSA to the W-League and now the WPS. He led the team to two championship titles, one in 2003 for the WUSA and one in 2007 for the W-League.
In the middle of the scouting season, Gabarra took the time to answer some questions regarding the Freedom's performance last year, what his plans are for the upcoming season, and how the national team is looking in preparation for the Women's World Cup in 2011.
Q & A With Coach Gabarra
A head coach's job doesn't end when the season ends. What have you been doing lately as you try to shape the team for 2010?
Gabarra: No, we are just as busy in the offseason. I have been working on our tryout and preseason camp schedule and exhibition matches, as well as our club partnerships and affiliations.
I have been keeping track of all the college players and [getting] out to as many games as possible. The most efficient trip was one that I make every year to the ACC quarterfinals. Eight top teams in one day!
Being close to some good college programs here in the Maryland and Virginia area is a great benefit, but we also reach out to and speak with a large number of college coaches to get their player input.
We evaluated our team and players from last season and have some specific needs. I have generated a short list of college seniors and have blended that into our plan. We have one open International spot, but before using that we needed some time to pursue free agents that we were interested in that we believed would fit our needs. We went pretty far with one, but she chose to play elsewhere, so now we have begun to work on one specific International to fill that role.
That is just the player personnel side of the job. I also have had to work on budgets and assist where I can on the ticketing, sponsorship, PR, marketing, and community relations aspects as well.
In the first season of the WPS, the Freedom finished third and got into the playoffs. Looking back, what were the things the team did well that need to be capitalized on next year, and what are the things that need to be worked on?
Gabarra: I think we were one of the most entertaining teams in the league and scored goals. We need to capitalize and enhance that goal scoring form and work on our team and individual defending to lower our goals against.
The Freedom lost Lori Lindsey and Sarah Senty to the Philadelphia Independence. How are you planning to fill the void?
Gabarra: We will miss both of these players, and it is especially hard since they have been part of our club for years. To fill the void, we will have Sarah Huffman back from ACL injury as well as one International spot.
It will also be an opportunity for drafted and returning players to step into a starting role.
There have been a lot of offseason transactions lately from the other teams, especially with the free agency period. If the new season was to start now, which team do you think you'd have to watch out for the most?
Gabarra: It is too early to pick one team as most teams have made significant changes. It is always difficult to tell how players will gel as a team and which players will be able to adapt to WPS.
It is enjoyable to see players that may not have been the best in college step into this environment and become good pros and earn national team call-ups. Even the International players find it difficult.
I was amazed at how far Lisa De Vanna grew this past year and Sonia being named to the FIFA Player of the Year final list was largely due to her WPS success.
You've got a couple of Freedom players on loan and some keeping busy with their respective national teams. How important is it for the Freedom's performance next season that these players continue to play competitively, even with other teams?
Gabarra: I think it is important for the player’s development to get out into a different environment and most importantly, get games. We can offer the best training, but at this time our season is short, and they need to be in that competitive match environment for at least three months of our offseason.
What did you think about the U.S. Women's National Team's performance against Germany in the Oct. 29 friendly?
Gabarra: What again is clear is that the American player has a great will to win. We have a lot of work to do, but as was the case in the past Olympics, the ability to defend and produce a timely goal is vital.
Thanks to the WPS, we have a professional league in the US again. How do you think this will help the chances of the USWNT in the 2011 World Cup?
Gabarra: WPS will further the development of domestic players and give the national team staff a level evaluation platform. This, combined with the quality of Internationals we have and continue to sign, will provide the USWNT a great chance to continue to be one of the top national teams in the world.
What influence do you see the Internet have on how the WPS is being run, and have you personally felt the presence of it in your day-to-day activities?
Gabarra: WPS has been proactive in the Web and social media platforms. I have certainly felt its presence in my day-to-day activities and completely approve of the way WPS has used these as well as the traditional media.
What is your favorite Freedom moment from the past season?
Gabarra: I cannot pick one moment, but the most rewarding part was our form at the end of the season. Things really came together for us in the last month.
What should Freedom fans expect for next season?
Gabarra: Freedom fans should expect entertaining, attacking soccer. I hope we can provide as many exciting matches as we did last season.
Let's say you get an opportunity to address a group of people that have never attended a Freedom home game. What would you say to get them to attend one?
Gabarra: I would guarantee that they enjoy a Freedom game here at the Soccer Plex. To have the best in the world here and the value is something that cannot be passed up.
If they can honestly say that it was not worth it, I would offer to pay them back for their ticket.