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2 Cuban players believed to have defected before match at BofA stadium

Cuba midfielder Dario Suarez (7) trips up past Mexico midfielder Antonio Rios (16) during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Chicago. Mexico won 6-0.
Cuba midfielder Dario Suarez (7) trips up past Mexico midfielder Antonio Rios (16) during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Chicago. Mexico won 6-0. AP

Two Cuban national soccer team players were no-shows ahead of the squad’s Gold Club match against Guatemala Wednesday, according to the Associated Press and other media outlets.

It was unclear if the players – Dario Suarez and Aricheel Hernandez – had defected to the United States. They were listed as absent on the official roster delivered to referees before Wednesday night’s game. Neither regional soccer officials nor Cuban delegation members offered an explanation to reporters.

Suarez apparently left the team hotel in Charlotte to go to the supermarket Wednesday, but never returned, according to Spanish-language media outlets.

The game in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Club was the team’s final match in group play. Cuba defeated Guatemala 1-0.

Cuban soccer players defecting to the United States during international play is a relatively common occurrence.

Two other players have also reportedly defected while the team has traveled through the United States.

In 2011 Yosniel Mesa defected to the United States after Cuba lost to Mexico at Bank of America Stadium. Mesa gave his uncle a pre-arranged signal during the game and the older man followed the team bus to the hotel and waited outside for Mesa to arrive. Then the pair drove to Miami. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson

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