When it comes to Cuba’s soccer team, you can’t even tell the players with a scorecard.
Coach Raul Gonzalez said 19 of the 23 men on his roster will be available for today’s CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal against the United States in Baltimore.
“I think it’s enough to play the game and to play the tournament,” he said Friday.
Cuba’s sports teams have a history of defections, and Gonzalez avoided saying which four players won’t be suiting up.
The Associated Press previously reported forward Keiler Garcia defected in Chicago ahead of Cuba’s opener against Mexico and backup goalkeeper Arael Arguellez disappeared before the team traveled to Arizona for its second match, against Trinidad and Tobago.
Midfielders Dario Suarez and Aricheel Hernandez were listed as absent on Wednesday’s lineup sheet before the 1-0 win over Guatemala in North Carolina, which advanced the Cubans to the knockout stage for the first time. Univision reported Friday that midfielder Ariel Martinez was not with the team.
The defending champion U.S. is 8-1-1 against Cuba with eight consecutive victories since 1947. The Americans won 5-0 in the 2003 quarterfinals and 4-1 in the first round two years ago,
Cuba, ranked 104th, has not qualified for the World Cup since 1938. Like the U.S., Cuba is a nation where soccer is not the No. 1 sport.
Gonzalez said he sees more young players at home competing in soccer these days.
“I don’t like baseball. I don’t watch baseball,” he said.
Sounders, Rapids meet
The Seattle Sounders are preparing to play the Colorado Rapids – as they did in April and again in June.
Tonight’s meeting at CenturyLink Field will mark Seattle’s third game with the Rapids in a season just 21 games old. However, while Seattle would like this one to play out list the first two – wins, home and away – this one could have its own dynamic.
The last time these clubs met, the Sounders had Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Marco Pappa, Brad Evans and Stefan Frei. None of those are expected to start this time.
However, this match could mark an early edge back toward normalcy. Frei trained this week, and wasn’t ruled out after sitting out last weekend with a shoulder injury. And indications are Pappa will be available after returning from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with the Guatemala national team.
The Sounders welcome any additional options, as the club has lost four of its last five matches, including a late 1-0 loss last week at Chicago. They have scored only two goals over those five matches.
Man United wins
Morgan Schneiderlin scored on a header in the fifth minute in his debut with Manchester United, lifting it past Mexican power Club America 1-0 in an International Champions Cup game in Seattle. Schneiderlin joined the Red Devils on Monday from Southampton.
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