<
>

Two Cuban players missing at tourney

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Two players were missing from the Cuban women's soccer team for its final game at an Olympic qualifying tournament.

Forward Yezenia Gallardo, 20, and midfielder Yisel Rodriguez, 22, were listed as absent from the team for Cuba's 3-0 loss Monday night against Haiti at BC Place.

Jesus Pereira, the head of the Cuban soccer delegation at the tournament, declined to stop to answer questions from reporters after the game. Pereira, the coaches and players headed directly to the team bus, again declining questions through a CONCACAF spokesman.

CONCACAF spokesman Scott Gleba said the soccer governing body could only confirm that the two players were not with the delegation. He referred further questions to Canadian and Cuban authorities.

Gallardo is one of Cuba's top players, playing in every minute of the team's first two games at the tournament. Rodriquez also started both games.

The victory was the first ever for the Haitians in the final round of Olympic qualifying. They lost their two previous games at this tournament to Canada and Costa Rica by a combined score of 8-0, putting the semifinals out of reach.

The Haitian players received a rousing ovation from the fans at BC Place after the final whistle.

Kimberly Alexis Boulos scored in the 72nd minute, Manoucheka Pierre Louis in the 76th, and Nadia Valentin in the 82nd.

Cuba lost all three of its games by a combined score of 7-0.

Cuban soccer players have a history of defecting during tournaments on the North American mainland. Seven members of the men's Under-23 team defected during a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa, Fla., in 2008, and men's national team player Yosniel Mesa defected last year after a game in Charlotte, N.C., during the CONCACAF Gold Cup.