2 Cuban players missing in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, BC – Two players were missing from Cuba’s lineup for its game against Haiti at the CONCACAF Olympic women’s soccer qualifying tournament Monday in Vancouver.

No immediate reason was given for the absences of forward Yezenia Gallardo, 21, and midfielder Yisel Rodriguez, 22.

Media reports suggested the players may have defected, something CONCACAF wasn’t immediately prepared to confirm.

“Per policy, we can confirm that we’ve heard the same reports regarding the missing Cuban players,” CONCACAF spokesman Ben Spencer told The Canadian Press in an email. “However, it is now a matter for the Canadian authorities and Cuban delegation, and we are not commenting further.”

While no reason was immediately given for the players’ absences, there have been past incidents of Cuban soccer players defecting during international tournaments.

Seven members of the Cuban under-23 team defected during the 2008 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in the United States, while striker Yosniel Mesa defected during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup when the team was in Charlotte, N.C.

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