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Cuba, Day 3

Today's schedule began with a 20-minute taxi ride to Estadio Pedro Marrero, located in the Kohly neighborhood near the Almendares River, which flows north through the western section of Havana and empties into the Caribbean.

The driver, Manuel, speaks almost flawless English and uses slang to get his point across. "Pardon my French," he said after a expletive-filled comment about Cubans who decline to work but are entitled to the same benefits as his family. We talk sports, politics, food and culture. We listen to his XM radio service. He would like to see America someday and wishes Americans could see the real Cuba, not the caricature created by political animosity.

"I would like to see the Rocky Mountains," he says. "I would like to see the Big Apple. I would like to see the Great Lakes. I don't think I would like Hollywood, but I would like to see California. And I would like to see Savannah. I hear there are beautiful buildings there."

The stadium is typical of Latin America: a running track wraps around the field, a big scoreboard dominates one end, there is mostly bench seating and an old roof covering much of the grandstands. Workers are applying baby-blue paint. Plaques commemorating the stadium's history as a baseball facility are afixed to a back wall with signatures of American players, such as Carl Hubbell. The field seems adequate. Capacity is 17,000. We are told it will be full. An outdoor cabaret area sits just behind the main grandstand. There is music and dancing every night, we are told. Except tomorrow because, one official said, "the music might interfere with the match."

The journey continues.....

....

By Steve Goff  |  September 5, 2008; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  CONCACAF  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Kickaround
Next: Saturday in the Park

Comments

Not sure if you have been in contact with DCU sources while in Cuba, but Kasper mentioned a signing that was snuck in before the window closed... Any idea? Just one of the trialists?

Posted by: jgildea | September 5, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

All the background stuff and reports from you (and Grant Wahl for that matter) about Cuba have been nothing but fascinating. I seriously just want to get out there now as soon as possible just to see this mysterious island (where my grandfather happened to be from as well). Someone should write a book about these last few days.

Posted by: Felix | September 5, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The driver, Manuel, speaks almost flawless English and uses slang to get his point across. "Pardon my French," he said after a expletive-filled comment about Cubans who decline to work but are entitled to the same benefits as his family.
=========
That's priceless!

Great stuff, Steve. You're painting a tremendous picture for us. With each post from you, the actual game is becoming more and more secondary. Keep it coming!

Posted by: Joe Doc | September 5, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Goff,

I love to travel and just got back from South America on Monday. Great job on giving us some insight into the world of Cuba.

I feel like these last few blogs have humanized you. I no longer think of you solely as an Encyclopedia Britannica of futbol. Great stuff.

-N.

Posted by: N. Daknow | September 5, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Write a book. You have us with you through your verbage. Give the guys well wishes.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | September 5, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"...because the music might interfere with the match."

To bad some MLS FOs don't understand this...

Posted by: seahawkdad | September 5, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Type this into the Google maps search bar:

23° 6'27.36"N, 82°24'46.27"W

It shows a stadium like Steve described: in/near the Kholy neighborhood and by north-flowing river. It doesn't look like a 17K seater, but the satellite image may have been taken a long time ago.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 5, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I include DC United's in this. They insist on blaring sports motivational music up to the time of kickoff. If they'd just shut it off after the teams march in we could get our enthusiasm up from the chanting and singing of the supporters' groups.

Posted by: seahawkdad | September 5, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

... or you could just click on this:

http://wikimapia.org/51705/Estadio-Pedro-Marrero

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 5, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Any word on whether the rabid Cuban fans employ smoke bombs to motivate their team?

Posted by: Fisch Fry | September 5, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Goff, you're the man!

Posted by: strago | September 5, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

You know the sad thing about Manuel the taxi driver, is he's most likely highly educated, maybe doctor or lawyer. However, he can make more money as a taxi cab driver because of tips from tourists.

Posted by: Bob | September 5, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I-270, I thought the same thing. World Stadiums gives a better view.

http://www.worldstadiums.com/stadium_pictures/middle_america/cuba/la_habana_marrero.shtml

Here's hoping that the stadium has lights.

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Nice, FF.

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Goff,

I don't like when discussions get too off topic, especially when people start making political attacks, but I feel compelled to share a brief comment.

I have the utmost respect for you due to the manner in which you have reported on the experiences of your travels. They have been unbiased and upfront.

I am of the type that likes to see things for myself before passing judgment on the matter. The following comment from your post really drives that home for me: "He would like to see America someday and wishes Americans could see the real Cuba, not the caricature created by political animosity."

I applaud you for your work and your willingness to include comments such as those highlighted.

Posted by: ElChele | September 5, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Goff,

Would love to hear your thoughts on the "real" Cuba. That comment certainly caught my interest.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Real Cuba -- I think it is a farm team for Real Madrid. Or Real Salt Lake.

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

ere's hoping that the stadium has lights.

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 3:23 PM
===========

The google/wikimap view shows the shadows of two lighting towers on the southeastern side of the pitch. The ESPN cameramen will have to open the apertures wiiiiiiiide.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 5, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

GW over at SI said there's only two lighting banks, too. I think we have more than that at my rec league fields. Should be interesting to watch.

Posted by: Drew-ROC | September 5, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Could the lighting situation be any worse than Guatemala?

Posted by: Scott | September 5, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Nice one, RK

Posted by: Fisch Fry | September 5, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Could the lighting situation be any worse than Guatemala?

Posted by: Scott | September 5, 2008 3:42 PM
.........................................

RFK has accomplished that feat a few times.

Posted by: The Jeff | September 5, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Off topic but of interest -- looks like MLS may try to align their schedule a little better with FIFA, in order to avoid club teams getting hurt by national call-ups.

http://www.torontosun.com/Sports/OtherSports/2008/09/05/6666966-sun.html

Posted by: SportzNut21 | September 5, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

RK said: "Jozy scored a hat trick today."

Oh, yes...

Posted by: Modibo | September 5, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

In a friendly against a 5th division team :)

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Jozy who.

Posted by: Bob Bradley | September 5, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

My awful command of Spanish led me to use Google's translator to read the Villareal story linked to above. Even more awful than my Spanish might be machine translation: http://google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.villarrealcf.es%2Fprincipal.php%3FnombreModulo%3DnoticiasDetalle%26idnoticia%3D6697%26idseccion%3D7%26idmenu%3D4%26idsubmenu%3D35&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=es&tl=en

"break garter belts"?

I do like how it translated an own goal into "one in its own door."

Posted by: DaveMcL | September 5, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Break garter belts? Hmmm...perhaps it is a new field.

Or Jozy scored more than a hat trick!

Posted by: RK | September 5, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

For some English, apparently this site might be useful: http://villarrealusa.org/

Jozy...tearing it up in a friendly. Woot! =)

Posted by: Patrick | September 5, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"looks like MLS may try to align their schedule a little better with FIFA, in order to avoid club teams getting hurt by national call-ups."

I think we might see some major scheduling/structural changes in MLS next season. Just a hunch, maybe a 28 match regular season? And *dare I say it* a single table?

The ignoring of FIFA intl dates has gone from just a choice to an embarrassment. I think that decision will go the way of the shootout.

Posted by: Kev | September 5, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Goff

Any news from DC? Their injury/out report is missing the following guys...

MF Domenic Mediate (concussion);
DF Gonzalo Peralta (hamstring);
GK Zach Wells (sesmoiditis);
DF Bryan Namoff (caution accumulation; through Sept. 7)
FW Jaime Moreno (Bolivia)
MF Jeff Carroll (broken metatarsal);
FW Luciano Emilio (groin strain);
MF Joe Vide (hamstring strain);
MF Ben Olsen (ankle surgery);

Was Guererro called up? That's potentially 10 guys missing? Surely that's worth some coverage?!

Who actually travelled to SJ?

Posted by: Aljarov | September 5, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow - add a couple defender to that list and it's not a bad team of guys - just on the injured list. IIRC, Guerrero was not called up and will be available.

Posted by: Kev | September 5, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Goff: Will it be Tenorio or a Bay Area stringer representing the Post in San Jose tomorrow night?

Posted by: The Jeff | September 5, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

... or you could just click on this:

http://wikimapia.org/51705/Estadio-Pedro-Marrero

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 5, 2008 3:13 PM
================
The view from an SR-71, perhaps?

Posted by: Joe Doc | September 5, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The view from an SR-71, perhaps?
Posted by: Joe Doc | September 5, 2008 4:53 PM
================

Taking a page from your book:

Black bird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 5, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

MF Domenic Mediate (concussion); He is out rest of the season. In previous post.
DF Gonzalo Peralta (hamstring);
GK Zach Wells (sesmoiditis); doesn't matter
DF Bryan Namoff (caution accumulation; through Sept. 7)
FW Jaime Moreno (Bolivia) Not going, will play at SJ.
MF Jeff Carroll (broken metatarsal);
FW Luciano Emilio (groin strain);
MF Joe Vide (hamstring strain);
MF Ben Olsen (ankle surgery);

Was Guererro called up? Yes but cancelled and will play at SJ.

Posted by: td | September 5, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Soehn has some decisions to make. If we want to play a 442, he will have to start either Pat Carroll or Zaher. I don't know if Zaher is ready to match up against Ronnie O'Brien, but then I also don't believe Carroll is reliable enough (1 good match out of 6, with the other 5 often being outright bad) to start either. It could be a 352, but with Vide out things are complicated. It's asking a lot of Simms to hold down central midfield with no partner.

Here's what I bet we'll see:

------- Quaranta - Dyachenko/Doe
Guerrero ---- Gallardo ---- Fred
------------------- Simms
Zaher - Burch - McTavish - Martinez
------------------ Crayton

I could also see Quaranta playing alongside Gallardo in midfield to add some energy and bite in an effort to support Simms, but that would mean either Dyachenko (not good enough) or Doe (very short of fitness; was in street clothes Wednesday night) going it alone up top. Maybe Kirk comes in on the right and Fred moves inside, with Quaranta on his own?

Martinez and whoever is at right midfield will be key tomorrow night. With the ball, Huckerby's very direct and very fast, but I worry more about him off the ball. He's great at eluding defenders, and with O'Brien benefiting from the fact that he's now not the only dangerous player in the Quakes midfield, the service will be in place. If we can shut Huckerby down, the game is there for the taking. Our midfield should be able to have a lot of success against theirs when we're on the attack, but the trick will be finding a way past their defense, which has been pretty good all season.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | September 5, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Manuel is right about Savannah. I went to College about 40 minutes or so from there, and its been one of my favorite places ever since. A beautiful little city, and lots of fun.

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | September 5, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Chest Rockwell: I had Carroll instead of Zaher in my head. I don't think that Gallardo will go the full 90. We might see Cordiero (sp?) come in and Fred shift to the center or "he who must not be named" as an attacking mid.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 5, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

america head australia frog australia deliver cube deliver england apple mail

Posted by: doghome | September 5, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: rightjhondel | September 5, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse

what the heck are those two posts above mine?

Posted by: mysterious gobbledygook | September 5, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

De Roux! De Roux!! De Roux is on FIRE!!!

Haven't said or typed that in a while but DCU alum Stephen DeRoux just had a nice goal (his shot knicked in off the post) as his Minnesota Thunder tied Montreal Impact (or as you may prefer "Jaime's cousin's team) 1-1 on Fox Soccer Channel.

Posted by: garbaggio | September 5, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I forgot to add that Jaime's cousin is Roland "Pato" Aguilera who was once rumored to be signed by DC and played in at least a reserve game.

Posted by: garbaggio | September 5, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

To Chest and I-270: I'd have to say that I'd be a little surprised if Gallardo starts. Tommy will want to build up his fitness level slowly and not risk a re-injury. With Luci out and Jaime n/a, it might prove too tempting to start Gallardo. Still, it is San Jose we're playing, and I think Tommy will err on the side of caution -- bringing on Gallardo late.

I'd expect Cordeiro to get the start on the wing (I love this kid), moving Fred inside. Of course, Tommy could try Fred up top and Quaranta in the midfield, but my guess is he'd rather have Fred distributing the ball, and Tino up top. It will put a lot of pressure on the midfield to generate goal-scoring opportunities, but it's a decent lineup -- at least equal to SJ.

On defense, unless Tommy moves Guerrero back, I think he has to use Zaher, which isn't a terrible option.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | September 5, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Here's a pair of tidbits that should be interesting to all here:

http://dcunited.mlsnet.com/news/mls_news.jsp?ymd=20080905&content_id=185795&vkey=news_mls&fext=.jsp

"The next soccer prodigy?: ....Emerson Hyndman...Emerson, 12, is the grandson of FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman, and recently named to the U.S. under-14 national team..."

If you follow the link, you'll learn that
Newcastle director of football Dennis Wise (is) "interested in signing Emerson to an academy contract." Wise was quoted by Dallas paper as saying the kid could be a superstar.

The story reports that Emerson has trials upcoming at Liverpool and Sporting Lisbon, along with another visit with Newcastle.

I might add that Kenny Cooper Sr. was the scout who first brought the younger Hyndman to Newcastle's attention.

Another story of talented youths, this one of local interest:

http://origin.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_9535489.html

US Soccer announced its roster of 40 U-17 residency players for the IMG Bradenton Academy. Included are four area players -- two of whom are from the DC United Youth Academy: Shaquille Phillips (Greenbelt) and Julio Arjona (Germantown). Joing them are Silver Spring's Joseph Gyau, and Samir Badr, who hails from Fairfax, but plays with the legendary Bethesda Roadrunners.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | September 5, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

nice neopotistic links FF. Is your old lady out of town or did you stumble upon a bindle of "Five hour energy"? Your posts are awfully lengthy and late since your return from "overseas", or was it just a "long haul" down the interstate?
What's the over and under on Kenny Cooper being in the USMNT line up for the RFK fixture?
Can someone send him a text message to ask hope solo for the proactive solution NOW! I honestly think BB has a contract with nike that keeps him from giving "too much" support to zitty kids.
I could very well be wrong, but my post is still probably shorter than good ol' Fisch Fry's...

Posted by: dadryan | September 5, 2008 11:57 PM | Report abuse

sorry about above ff, but you seem to be hanging around the 'puter more than I am, and that's never good...
Peace, Love Dope!
Go USA
Vamos United!
California Sink into Pacific!

Posted by: dadryan | September 6, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Hey, how does Cuba compare to Haiti, Jamaica, DR and suriname on literacy, poverty, unemployment and etc.

I mean...people compare it to the the USA and yeah..it's not no US. But how does it compare to the rest of the Caribbean who were ruled by capitalist dictators instead of you know...Socialist ones?

I mean...you say tomato I say....Monroe Doctrine.

Posted by: Alejandro | September 6, 2008 4:22 AM | Report abuse

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