Cuba captain Lopez defects after Mexico drubbing
Cuba midfielder Yasmani Lopez defected in Los Angeles after playing in the first game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Saturday night against Mexico, coach Raul Mederos has confirmed.
"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.
"At this point he is the only player who is not with us," Mederos told reporters on Tuesday night in the news conference prior to Wednesday's match against Martinique in Denver.
"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."
Lopez, 31, served as Cuba's captain in Saturday's 7-0 loss to Mexico at the Rose Bowl in California. Cuba will also face Canada on June 23 in the group stage.
Cuban players leaving squads during or after tournaments in the United States has been a regular occurrence for a number of years.
Current Minnesota United midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is the highest-profile case. He defected in 2007 during the Gold Cup in Houston and went on to have an outstanding career in MLS, while seven players did the same in the Olympic qualifiers one year later.
Last year, 12 of Cuba's 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship squad reportedly remained in the United States, even after the end of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy in January 2017, which granted a route to legal residency to Cubans who arrive in the United States and chose to stay.
Cuban authorities don't allow players that defect to the United States to continue to play for the Cuban national team.
Lopez made his Gold Cup debut in 2013 and had played for Cuba's national team ever since. This was his fifth Gold Cup.