An Historic Visit
The MNT is visiting the Caribbean island for just the third time in history and is playing its first friendly match in Havana since the two sides inaugural meeting, a 5-2 Cuba win on July 20, 1947. More recently, the two sides met in semifinal round World Cup Qualifying in 2008, with the USA winning 1-0 off a 40th minute strike from Clint Dempsey.
Friday’s friendly marks the first meeting since the restoration of diplomatic relations occurred on July 20, 2015. Coincidentally, that landmark moment came just two days after the U.S. last faced Cuba, defeating Los Leones del Caribe 6-0 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals in Baltimore, Md.
All-Time vs. Cuba
Holding a 9-1-1 all-time advantage against Cuba, the U.S. hasn’t lost since that first meeting in 1947. The MNT’s current nine-game winning streak began with a 5-2 World Cup Qualifying victory back on Sept. 21, 1949 in Mexico City, marking the team’s longest current streak both in terms of games and years (67).
Hurricane Matthew Forces Early Departure
With camp commencing in Miami on Monday, MNT staff has kept an eye on the updated weather forecasts for Hurricane Matthew throughout the week. Originally scheduled to leave for Havana at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, the team’s departure time was moved up to 1 a.m. ET Thursday morning to avoid any potential delays for the hour-long flight to the Cuban capital.
The #USMNT has arrived in #Cuba! #USAvCUB 🇺🇸⚽️🇨🇺 pic.twitter.com/INa4599veF— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) October 6, 2016
Located on the far west side of the island, Havana was not directly hit by the Category 4 hurricane. Forecasts project it will receive ancillary rain from the storm on Thursday and Friday.About Cuba: The Nation
Cuba is the biggest island in the Caribbean in terms of land mass and population, with 11 million people calling the nation home. Known best for its cigars, mojitos and love of baseball, visitors to Cuba remark at the classic beauty of the island. Vintage American cars from the 1950s are commonplace on the island, a result of the long economic embargo imposed since 1960.
Scene Set: Cuban National Team
Soccer-wise, Cuba has long been a mid-level national side in CONCACAF, often qualifying for the Gold Cup and many times making it to the semifinal round of World Cup Qualifying. However, the National Team has suffered over the years from a number of defections, with Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso proving the most successful player to have left Cuba.
Following an earlier than normal exit from FIFA World Cup Qualifying at the hands of Curacao just prior to last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, Friday’s friendly marks Cuba’s fourth match of the year and first since a 3-0 Caribbean Cup Qualifying defeat to French Guyana on March 29.