Honduras beats desertion-depleted Cuban team

March 13, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. -- Down to 10 players after seven players deserted and another was suspended for a red card, Cuba dropped a 2-0 decision to Honduras on Thursday night in Group A play in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.

Five players left the under-23 squad after a 1-1 draw with the United States on Tuesday night. Two more players disappeared Wednesday night, and Roberto Linares was automatically suspended a game for receiving a red card.

Cuban coach Raul Gonzalez, upset with a question about the possible defection of an assistant coach, left in the middle of his postgame press conference.

"It was a difficult result," Gonzalez said before leaving. "It was hard to play with 10 players. That's asking a lot. But I think we played well."

For 68 minutes, the Cubans certainly did.

But Honduras (2-0) broke through against the fatigued Cuban defense in the 69th minute, with Marvin Sanchez beating goalkeeper Arael Arguelles off a deflection.

Hendry Thomas completed the scoring in the 77th minute.

The top two teams in the group will advance to the March 20 semifinals in Nashville, Tenn., along with the top two from Group B. The finalists will earn a berth in the Beijing Olympics.

Five of the missing players -- Cuban officials didn't identify them, but Jose Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia Baro, Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto weren't at practice Wednesday -- were expected to be in Miami by this weekend, said Marcos Ommati, a spokesman with professional soccer team Miami FC.

Ommati said Wednesday that he hadn't spoken with the players and didn't know their whereabouts, but said he had spoken with someone who told him to expect the players.

Player Yendry Diaz told ESPN that he and forward Eder Roldan also had left the team, bringing the total to seven.

Under the United States' "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain in the country and apply for U.S. residency after one year.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press