Carol Slezak writes that if Carlos de los Cobos heard the words once from his dad, he heard them a few dozen times: Son, the future of soccer is in the USA, and one day your career will take you there. The Mexican De Los Cobos is now six weeks into his tenure as Chicago Fire head coach.
"My father was a very wise man," says De los Cobos, who played for Mexico's national team and coached in the Mexican national team program. "He can't look at me now here in the USA because he died in October of last year. But I remember he always said this. I remember when the USA started soccer, with the Cosmos [in 1971], he said it to me then. And he was right. I look at the development of soccer in the United States. This is a big country and other things are big here, but they are trying to make soccer good. And, well, I am here, and I am very excited."
The 51-year-old De los Cobos recently led El Salvador's national team to the last phase of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. That was a great feat, considering El Salvador hadn't made it that far in 12 years. As a result, he became a hot commodity and easily could have returned to Mexico to coach again. But when the Fire came calling, he was all ears.
''When I spoke with the people here with the Chicago Fire -- the owner, Mr. Andrew Hauptman, and the others -- it was a very, very exciting moment because I had the opportunity to see what professionals they are,'' he said. ''Their work, their good view about the future of this club and Major League Soccer -- for all those reasons, it meant I needed to take this opportunity to come to the USA to work."