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Cuba Captain Defects In Middle Of Gold Cup After Getting Demolished By Mexico

Yasmani López, who captained Cuba in a 7-0 loss to Mexico on Saturday, has defected, Cuba coach Raul Mederos has confirmed. 

Cuba was routed by El Tri in their Gold Cup opener at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and López did not travel with the team to Denver, where Cuba will play Martinique on Wednesday.

“The team, as everyone now knows, did not arrive at the Gold Cup with the full delegation and it is true that our No. 4 midfielder Yasmani Lopez abandoned the team on Saturday night,” Mederos said Tuesday. “At this point he is the only player who is not with us.”

“It is his decision. None of his teammates have anything to do with it. It’s his decision. He took it and went through with it.”

Cuban soccer players have a long history of defecting while in competition in the U.S., especially the Gold Cup, as Keiler García did in 2015. President Barack Obama began to relax relations with Cuba during his two terms, but President Donald Trump has reversed many of Obama’s policies regarding the island nation in the Caribbean. 

The Cuban national team does not play many matches outside of official competitions and López, 31, was one of Cuba’s most experienced players with 29 caps. López started at center back against Mexico but is nominally listed as a midfielder. 

Cuba still has at least two more matches to play in the U.S., Wednesday night against Martinique and Sunday against Canada. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals, and Cuba is unlikely to be among the top two after being thrashed in its opener and losing its captain.

Cuba has never finished better than the quarterfinals at the Gold Cup, having done so in 2003, 2013 and 2015. The country has played in one World Cup, when it was given automatic qualification to the 1938 tournament in France and reached the quarterfinals after advancing past Romania in a replay in the opening round. Sweden beat Cuba 8-0 in the second round. 

Still more Cubans could defect during the Gold Cup, either before or after the match in Denver or in Charlotte, North Carolina, the location of Cuba’s final match. Yosniel Mesa defected while Cuba played in Charlotte during the 2011 Gold Cup.

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