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from espn.com

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The day after five members of Cuba’s under-23 national soccer team left their hotel with the intention of defecting, two more players disappeared Wednesday night.

Yendry Diaz told ESPN International on the phone that he and Eder Roldan also had left the Cuban team.

Diaz and Roldan are with friends in Tampa, but intend to join their fellow defector teammates in Lake Worth, Fla., according to the Miami Herald.

The original five — Jose Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia Baro, Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto — left Tuesday after a 1-1 draw against the United States in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa.

The five already are in Lake Worth, a town north of Boca Raton, according to The Herald, which reached the players by phone Wednesday.

“‘We’re fine, calm, feeling hopeful about our new lives,” Bermudez told The Herald. “Of course, we’re nervous because we’re young, have no family here, and we don’t yet know the way of life here, but we hope the Cuban and American communities will help us get started.”

Their first order of business when they got away from the hotel on Tuesday was to buy a cell phone, contact a lawyer — and celebrate with a Cuban meal, according to The Herald.

“Of course, my heart will be in Cuba with my family, but I want to have the freedom to better my life, to play professional soccer, to be the best I can be, and for that we had to make this sacrifice,” Bermudez said in The Herald. “The key now is to get the legal paperwork out of the way as quickly as possible so we can get on with our plans.”

Luiz Muzzi, general manager of United Soccer League club Miami FC, told The Herald that he was planning on hosting a tryout for them next week, after he was contacted by a friend of the players’.

“I watched their game against the U.S. on TV, and I thought the Cuban team played very well,” Muzzi said. “We were kind of scouting that game because anytime a Cuban team comes to the United States, there’s a chance someone might defect.”

Bermudez told The Herald that he has contacted Lester More and Osvaldo Alonso for advice; the two had defected in 2007 during the Gold Cup in Houston.

“They told us they’re happy for us, and that we have to be patient, but little by little, everything will work out,” Bermudez said in The Herald. “Even though we are a little nervous, we know there is a very large community of Cubans here in South Florida, and that makes us feel more at home. We hope to make them proud.”

An on-the-field issue is whether the Cuban team would have enough players to compete in Thursday’s game against Honduras at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

It’s Cuba’s second game in a qualifying tournament for the Beijing Olympics, sponsored by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF.

The Cuban delegation notified CONCACAF on Thursday that the team will continue to participate, CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said in a statement.

“CONCACAF has been notified by the head of the Cuban delegation that several players have left the team,” Blazer said. “CONCACAF has no information on the location of the players or the circumstances surrounding their separation from the delegation.”

If the seven players do not return, Cuba would be left with an 11-man squad, but only 10 would be available to play, because Roberto Linares is automatically suspended one game for receiving a red card in Tuesday’s game.

Cuban sports officials were stunned Thursday by the desertions. “We feel really badly,” Antonio Garces of the Cuban Soccer Association told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Raul Gonzalez, coach of the Cuban national team, confirmed to ESPN Deportes that there was no security plan in place around the Cuban team to avoid defections. The team was staying at the Doubletree Hotel Tampa Westshore Airport.

Zachary Mann, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said it’s unlikely the agency will learn the men’s whereabouts until they come forward. The players likely would be granted political protection under the United States’ “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to obtain asylum.

Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said Wednesday the agency had not received any missing persons reports from the team, and officers were not called to the team’s hotel to investigate the disappearances.

Miss NJ:  Cubans have the best of any immigrant group coming to the US.  All they have to do is make it to land and they get to stay no questions asked.  If Mexicans were smart (and no one ever accused them of that), they would try to become a Communist state and then everyone could come to the US.  The second best immigrant group are Dominicans.  Why?  Because they front as Puerto Ricans and get in that way.  Trust when I tell you, there’s many a “Puerto Rican” walking around from the DR.

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