KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Four players have left the Cuban Under-23 national team ahead of their first Olympic qualifying match, following a rash of defections from the senior squad during this past summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
CONCACAF confirmed on Wednesday that authorities had been notified of the absence of three players, and a fourth absence was revealed Thursday when Cuba put out their squad sheet ahead of their Group A opener against Panama at Sporting Park.
The four are midfielders Emmanuel Labrada and Dairon Perez, forward Frank Lopez and defender Yendry Torres. The details of when and how they left the team were not immediately available.
During a news conference on Wednesday, coach Raul Valentin Gonzalez acknowledged that some players had left the team but declined to discuss their departures.
“I feel that this tournament is a sport tournament,” he said, speaking through a translator. “It's not political. For me, what's important is the players who are here. The players who have gone, they've taken another route. It's not something that we're interested in. It's not something that we're interested in talking about.”
Cuba lost four players to defection during this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, also in the United States.
Steve Brisendine covers soccer in Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.