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Monday 25 February 2013

What Ever Happened To … Cuba’s Toronto Defectors

    In homage to MLSsoccer.com ‘What Ever Happened To…” series, an update on one of the more intriguing stories Canadian soccer endured in 2012.

    Toronto was captivated when Canada’s World Cup Qualification match against Cuba last October began with the announcement, well not quite that official, that several players – news reports oscillated from seven to four to three - defected prior to kickoff.

    The prematch buzz quietly faded after the initial flurry, but now several months later one of those who chose to start a new life has surfaced on the pitch.

    Twenty-year-old Cuban Goalkeeper, Odisnel Cooper, put in a stellar performance for the Charleston Battery, in their 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo at the Charleston Challenge Cup.

    Several saves, including one on a Brad Davis attempt from the penalty spot, held the Dynamo at bay, prompting head coach Dominic Kinnear to remark, "The goalie had a great game. We created some good chances. In the first half, [Cooper] made four really, really good saves.”  (Quotes courtesy of houstondynamo.com)

    Interestingly, the young keeper has found himself at the former club of one Oswaldo Alonso, who defected in 2007 before rising to prominence with the Seattle Sounders in MLS.

    Adding further intrigue, are unconfirmed reports that all three – seems likely that that number is the correct one – have landed at Charleston, though the roster at the club website makes no mention of the trio.

    Best of luck to the young men on their continued development, one must wonder whether Cooper or the others will someday grace MLS. It will be interesting to follow their progress and hear more of their tale.

    After all, they are now a part of Canadian Soccer Folklore, and as such, their progress should be observed.

    For further reading, keep an eye this site covering Cuban Football (en español), who have followed this story from the offset.

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