Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two Cuban players go missing

Posted on Saturday, 10.11.08

Two Cuban players go missing
A German soccer coach confirmed that two Cuban players left the team's
Doubletree Hotel and they had not been seen since.

WASHINGTON -- Two members of the Cuban national soccer team are missing
and presumed to be seeking asylum a day after arriving in the nation's
capital for Saturday's World Cup qualifying match against the United
States. Reinhold Fanz, the German coach of the Cuban team, confirmed to
reporters that two players left the team's Doubletree Hotel, had not
been seen since, and did not practice on Friday.

The players are midfielder Pedro Faife, 24, and forward Reynier
Alcantara, 26. Faife has family in South Florida and contacted relatives
upon arriving in the United States.

The last time a Cuban soccer team played in the United States, in
mid-March, seven members of the Under-23 Olympic qualifying team bolted
from their team hotel in Tampa and defected. Twelve Cuban soccer players
have defected since 2002. A few landed in Major League Soccer, others
are playing for United Soccer Leagues and a few of the most recent
arrivals are playing in a Puerto Rican pro league.

''It is always a problem for the Cuba team,'' Fanz told The Washington
Post. ``We have security, but you can't handcuff them to their rooms.''

The undefeated United States has all but clinched a spot in the next
round of World Cup qualifying, and winless Cuba would need a miracle to

So, the only real intrigue heading into the match at RFK Stadium was
whether the Cuban team would head back to the island with all its players.

The answer, apparently, is no.

The Cubans lost 3-0 at home to the U.S. last month -- the first time the
U.S. national team had played there in 61 years. That game was played on
a soggy, bumpy field with poor lighting.

''Cuba has no points, they feel they should have some points, so we're
expecting them to come out with a lot of energy,'' Bradley said Friday.
``We have to establish control early and finish things off.''

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said the team is looking forward to playing
at RFK, which has a rich soccer tradition. ``It's a cool setting, and we
want to close it out. The pressure is on us to entertain and perform at
our highest level.''

Bradley called up Olympians Freddy Adu, 19, and Jozy Altidore, 18, which
will appease the U.S. fans who have been begging for more youth on the
squad. Adu, the phenom who became a millionaire at 14, is with AS Monaco
in France this season, on loan from Portuguese club Benfica. He hadn't
had as big an impact in Portugal as expected, starting just twice in 21
games and scoring five goals. Altidore, a Haitian-American, who grew up
in Boca Raton, is also plying his game in Europe. Villarreal of the
Spanish Liga paid Major League Soccer a reported $10 million transfer
fee for the forward.

Another young player to keep an eye on is midfielder Jose Francisco
Torres. He is a 20-year-old Texan whose father is Mexican and mother is
American, leading to a cross-border tug-o-war over his services. Torres
dropped out of high school at 16 and signed a pro contract with Pachuca
of the Mexican League, where he still plays. He is only 5-5 and 135
pounds (they call him ``El Mosquito''), but he's a lefty, and can add a
spark down the flanks.

Like Torres, defender Michael Orozco is a Mexican-American who could
have played for either team but chose the United States. Orozco, 22,
grew up in Orange, Calif., and signed with San Luis of the Mexican
League. He is eager to make a splash because thus far his biggest
headline was when he was slapped with a red card three minutes into the
Olympic match against Nigeria.

Bradley said he is more concerned with winning than experimenting with
new players, but if they have the game in hand, he expects to give the
youngsters some playing time. The U.S. will rely on a rock-solid
defense, which has shut out opponents in six consecutive games. The last
team to score on the U.S. was Spain during a June 4 friendly.

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