October 11, 2008
By Charles Cuttone
Troubles? Not on this night
WASHINGTON, D.C.---No doubt this country has a lot of problems. The economy, the bailout plan, the war, the tenor of the Presidential race. Showing our patriotism and moving on to the next round of World Cup qualifying, however, do not seem to be among them.
Jozy Altidore was one of five goalscorers on a feel-good night for the USA at RFK Stadium.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
DaMarcus Beasley with two first half goals and Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu with a flurry of goals in the second took care of the moving on to the next round part rather nicely.
Certainly Samís Army, the Screaming Eagles, La Norte and Barra Brava had no trouble waving the flag and showing their colors, at least not on this night, because it is unusual for the U.S. to actually be the home team when facing a Latin American opponent.
Even though RFK is antiquated by most stadium standards, a good crowd in the place still makes it as good an American soccer stadium as there is. I wish instead of talking about a new stadium D.C. United could figure out a way to renovate this one, but thatís another issue.
But a game in the Nationís Capital against Cuba is a fitting place to think about not the problems, but the fact that with everything bad going on, there are still those who would risk everything to come here.
According to published reports, at least two of the Cuban team members, Reynier Alcantara and Pedro Faife, left the team's hotel in Crystal City, outside of Washington, D.C., in the past few days and their whereabouts are unknown. It is very likely they will turn up playing soccer somewhere in the U.S. in the near future, looking for as many have in the past, the American dream.
"The players who have left by themselves, it was their decision. They left the team when they were supposed to defend their country," said Cuban federation President Luis Hernand.
Of course, this is a problem every Cuban sports team faces when coming to the U.S. to play. Baseball players have defected, and during last year's Olympic Qualifying tournament, a whole vanload of Cubans disappeared.
One of them, Osvaldo Alonso, spent the season with the USLís Charleston Battery and on Saturday was named the leagueís Rookie of the Year after turning in four goals and two assists this season. A native of San Cristůbal, Cuba, Alonso is the former captain of the Cuban Olympic team, was capped 17 times for the full national team and scored 2 goals.
To the Cuban athletes who defect here, itís not just about money. The salary in the USL is certainly not in the high rent district. Itís about the freedom. The ability to express themselves.
Remember in Cuba, they have free elections, but the choice is Castro or Castro. Matters not that it was Fidel and now Raul. Thatís the choice. Period.
While the U.S. worries about the troubles of the Detroit automakers and the cost of driving our gas guzzlers, Cubans still tool about in their 50s vintage cars. There is no mortgage crisis there. Most feel lucky they have a roof on their heads.
And itís not just Cubans coming here for a better life. Take Jose Fernando Torres, who entered the game for the U.S. in the 68th minute. His parents came to the U.S. from Mexico. Torres has found a spot playing professionally for Pachuca, one of the top clubs in Mexico. But when it came time to select a national team, he truly put country first, something that did not sit well with many fans in Mexico.
Things might get worse (letís hope not) before they get better in this country, but at least for a Saturday night, the biggest worry for many of us, turned out not to be much of one anyway. On to the next round.