Found Three! The Cubans have resurfaced…

…in Los Angeles. But not with Chivas USA as expected.

Defender Yenier Bermudez, midfielder Yordany Alvarez, and goalkeeper (hero of the 1-1 tie vs. the US U-23s) Jose Manuel Miranda – the all-star of the bunch – are now on trial with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

With WIcks and Cronin, I see Galaxy giving a long look at Miranda and most likely signing him. Bermudez was fantastic in the backline, while Alvarez showed some decent stuff. If anyone, expect Miranda and Bermudez to join the team on developmental contracts.

Hope these guys can latch on somewhere in the US. Just saw that Osvaldo Alonso – of the 2005 Gold Cup defectors – landed a contract with the Charleston Battery of the USL First Division. Alonso joins Lester More who signed for the Battery earlier this year.

Now where are the other four??

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Five [Edit: SEVEN!] Cuban U-23 Players Missing, GK Miranda, DF Diaz

It’s highly likely they are trying to defect. The players are:

Goalie Jose Manuel Miranda who started last night and stopped some nice shots.

Captain Yenier Bermudez who was pretty solid in central defense, helping to neutralize Findley, Altidore, and Davies.

Erlys Baro who started at fullback and Yordany Alvarez who saw some time in the midfield as well.

Midfielder Loanni Prieto also left. They were all in Lake Worth, Florida discussing the next step – getting ready to seek political asylum

Next to leave, the following night, was defender Yendry Diaz – who definitely could have a future in the MLS after he showed his physical prowess marking Altidore out of the game – and midfielder Eder Roldan.

Apparently, all have been offered a tryout with Miami FC.

I’ll keep you updated amongst all the other soccer stuff going on today. Pretty crazy though…good luck to them. Hope we see them pop up like Osvaldo Alonso and Lester More did last year (More is now with the Charleston Battery and Alonso is still on trial – I believe – with the Columbus Crew).

Olympic Qualifying, USA vs. Cuba: Tougher Than One Might Think

CUBA
No. – Name – Pos. – D.O.B. – Club
1 – Jose Manuel Miranda – GK – 22.08.1986 – Matanzas
2 – Erlys Garcia Baró – DF – 28.07.1985 – Ciudad Habana
3 – Yenier Bermudez – DF – 08.10.1985 – Cienfuegos
4 – Raicel Mazquia Pozo – DF – 17.09.1985 – Pinar del Río
5 – Yendry Diaz – DF – 06.05.1987 – Matanzas
6 – Alianni Urgelles – MD – 25.06.1985 – Guantánamo
7 – Liván Vasconcelos – MD – 03.04.1987 – Matanzas
8 – Francisco Alexei Carrazana – MD – 23.12.1985 – Cienfuegos
9 – Roberto Linares – AT – 10.02.1986 – Villa Clara
10 – Yordany Alvarez – MD – 24.05.1985 – Cienfuegos
11 – Enrique Villaurrutia – MD – 24.04.1985 – Cienfuegos
12 – Arael Arguelles – GK – 30.04.1987 – Cienfuegos
13 – Eder Roldan – MD – 17.08.1987 – Ciudad Habana
14 – Armando Coroneaux – MD – 02.07.1985 – Camaguey
15 – Juan Carlos Martinez – DF – 30.12.1985 – Villa Clara
16 – Loanni Cartaya Prieto – DF – 12.11.1985 – Ciudad Habana
18 – Yasnier Rosales – AT – 12.07.1987 – Granma
19 – Leonel Duarte – AT – 22.08.1987 – Ciego de Ávila

A lack of information on many of the players is easily overcome by taking a look at the Cuban national team and their results over the past couple of years.  A definite standout is Leonel Duarte, who has featured the most of the Cuban national team, scoring several goals at that level. His key is his versatility – he has featured in both the defense and offense all at the age of 20. Still waiting for his prolonged chance with the national team is prolific youth level goalscorer Roberto Linares Yalmicida who has the pace to give projected centerbacks Ianni and Nathan Sturgis (who we did see get burned a couple of times at last summer’s U-20 World Cup) significant problems.

Defender Yenier Bermudez saw some time in the senior squad’s Carribbean Round of Qualifying for last year’s Gold Cup. Between Bermudez and Yendry Diaz, the Cubans hold a little bit of experience in the back but nothing fully capable of stopping a target man as imposing as Altidore.

The last line of defense, Jose Manuel Miranda, is more than capable if he has the proper protection in front of him. Miranda has already been touted as a better younger version of the current national team keeper Odelin Molina.

Enrique Villaurrutia saw time in the midfield in Cuba’s 2-1 loss to Mexico during the Gold Cup, while Leonel Duarte started the contest and made an impression on the Mexicans. You might have seen the talented Osvaldo Alonso lining up for Cuba if he hadn’t of defected during 2007’s Gold Cup. Alonso was recently on trial with the Columbus Crew and looks to latch on with a USL or MLS team by the end of the preseason. Regardless, Cuba coasted through two rounds of qualifying beating Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and Bermuda among others along the way. Leonel Duarte scored 6 to make things relatively easy, but the key has been Roberto Linares Yalmicida who had 10 goals through qualifying. If Yalmacida and Duarte can mesh, they can exploit Piotr Nowak’s only projected weakness – his central defense. Therefore, in recap…

Players to Watch Out For…
Leonel Duarte (FW)
Roberto Linares Yalmacida (FW)
Enrique Villaurrutia (MD)
Jose Boudy Miranda (GK)

I’m sure everyone is only thinking, how many defections and with what MLS team will the defected end up???

CONCACAF Qualifying: C’mon, People, Worry With Me!

I don’t like this particular line of thinking from Greg Lalas’ look ahead to the U.S. Men’s National Team’s (aka, Yanquis) 2008:

“All of that [ed. – “what’s ‘that’ you’re asking? Well, read his article and find out.”] will pay massive dividends come ’09, when the U.S. heads to South Africa for the Confederations Cup and World Cup 2010 qualifying opponents are not pinpricks on the map. Clichés exist for a reason. Because they’re true. Sophomore slumps also exist for a reason. Because you’re preparing for what comes next.”

Well, yeah. But what if “what comes next” never comes because you didn’t sweat the necessary stuff that comes before it?

The whole tone of that article, along with the idea that we’re entering something of a “nothing” year with 2008, irks me a little. The list of probable 2008 opposition on our way to the 2010 World Cup does have a kind of “who’s that?” feel. We start in June with either Barbados or Dominica, whichever of them makes it past their upcoming home-and-home ties in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament’s first round (are these things being televised, by the way; if not, why not? I’m seeing a shitstack of “FA Cup Films” out of Fox Soccer Channel and, no, I don’t stick around to watch them). Sure, we should beat either team, and handily, but…well, what if? I know two things about this: 1) my world would, personally, end; 2) am I alone in detecting some shaky moments in our defense, specifically our central defense? And what happens when we go down a freak goal at home and need to score – as we did against Guatemala in last year’s Gold Cup – and we just….can’t….do….it? Shit…I lost a few more hairs just thinking about it.

Speaking of Guatemala, they’re one of our likely opponents in the round-robin semifinal Hexagonal that will round out our qualifying schedule for 2008, them along with Trinidad & Tobago and Cuba (you can piece together pretty easily from this page). Going by the tentative Yanquis’ schedule Du Nord slapped on the ol’ left-hand sidebar, we’ll be five games into the six required to wrap up the penultimate Hexagonal by the end of this year – and this is a time when Lalas recommends we “afford some of the players some necessary rest?” Now, this could just be the anxiety talking, but am I alone in thinking all three of those teams are entirely capable of forcing ties with the U.S. team? We know Guatemala is a pain in the ass, that the Cubans get up for games against the Yanquis like no one else (half of them, no doubt, by way of putting on a pre-defection audition), and Trinidad had it’s moments in the 2006 World Cup (does Tobago get pissed when people leave them out?). For all that the odds favor the Yanquis, accidents happen…sometimes several of them in a row.

The point is, the Canadians look like they’re approaching qualifying with due and healthy anxiety (and, provided they play in 2008 like they played this summer, they can definitely survive a group comprised of (again, this is likely) Mexico, Jamaica, and Honduras; and, for the record, I’m glad that’s the Canadians’ group and not ours. So count me happy we’re not in that (highly comparative) Group of Death, but I don’t like so much as the possibility that Lalas’ positively sanguine mood lurks in more hearts than his. We’re the better team – and by far; I have absolutely no doubt of that – but this is about guaranteeing success, as opposed to expecting it.

I mean, how painful would it be to fly to the Confederations’ Cup in 2009 with no South Africa 2010 to follow?