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USA vs. Cuba, CONCACAF Nations League group stage: Scouting Cuba

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The USA takes on an enigma shrouded in mystery and possibly counter-intelligence

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Erick Rizo (3) seen in action during the Nations League... Photo by Angel Marchini/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team will kick off in Group A of the CONCACAF Nations League tomorrow against Cuba. Coming into the game, Cuba has lost all five of its competitive matches in 2019 having dropped its three group games in the Gold Cup and both of its Nations League contests against Canada. Combined, the team has allowed 24 goals in those games while scoring zero. In the midst of all that, Cuba swapped managers with Pablo Elier Sanchez stepping up from conditioning coach to open Nations League play. Reportedly, his focus is on youth development so perhaps a younger lineup will be seen in DC.

While that may make the game little more than a tune-up for a slightly tougher challenge against Canada next week, let’s get to know the Cuban National Team ahead of Friday.

Roster?

Good question. Very good question in fact. In true CONCACAF fashion, as far as I can tell, it has not yet been released. We do know one thing, David Urgelles, Orlendiz Benitez, Alejandro Portal, Andy Baquero, and Yordan Santa Cruz will not be with the team because they defected in Canada last month. Perhaps the idea is that if the players on the roster don’t know they’re heading to Washington, DC they can’t plan to defect? It’s an interesting tactic at least.

US Soccer noted that the following players started for the most recent Cuba matches against Canada:

Canada 7-0 Cuba - Sept. 7, 2019 - Toronto, Canada

CUB: Sandy Sánchez; Alejandro Portal, Yosel Piedra, Erick Rizo, Dariel Morejón; Jean Carlos Rodríguez (Lázaro Monzón, 54), Andy Baquero (Randys Revé, 79), Karel Espino (Aníbal Álvarez, 80), Arichel Hernández; Yordan Santacruz, Maykel Reyes

Cuba 0-1 Canada - Sept. 10, 2019 - Georgetown, Cayman Islands

CUB: Nelson Johnston; Karel Espino, Yosel Piedra, Erick Rizo, Dariel Morejón (Dario Ramos, 72); Jean Carlos Rodríguez (José Armelo, 82), Randys Revé, Rolando Abreu, Arichel Hernández; Manuel Cruz, Maykel Reyes (Lázaro Monzón, 79’)

Given that I can’t find a roster I won’t stand on ceremony and predict a lineup, but can tell you that in the last two matches against Canada, the Cubans lined up in a 4-2-3-1. It generally collapsed into a defend for your life type situation against Les Rouges in Canada, and a more skilled US team should be able to accomplish a similar result at home.

There you have it. By now, the US has watched teams score 24 goals against Cuba over the last few months, so it should have a blueprint for how to do that in DC. Cuba will try to hit on the counter and stay compact defensively, but it would be a small miracle, and pretty embarrassing for the USA, if the visitors manage to score. This should be one time when the cigar actually explodes and the Stars and Stripes can count on three points to open the tournament.