U.S. to Face Cuba at RFK In Qualifier

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 26, 2008

The U.S. men's national soccer team will play Cuba in a 2010 World Cup qualifier at RFK Stadium this fall, provided both sides win their second-round series in June.

In a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters yesterday, U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said the District has been chosen for the Oct. 11 match, which would serve as the fourth of six games for the Americans in a four-nation, semifinal-round group.

Once a regular destination for the U.S. team, RFK was passed over between 2005 and 2007 because of field conditions and scheduling issues while D.C. United and the Washington Nationals shared the stadium. The American squad has not played in the District since October 2004, a 6-0 victory over Panama in a 2006 World Cup qualifier.

The U.S. team is 10-3-3 and has averaged 31,169 spectators at RFK.

For the October match to come to fruition, the Americans must defeat Barbados in a home-and-away series in mid-June. The U.S. home leg will be played at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Cuba is heavily favored to defeat Antigua and Barbuda.

"RFK, for sure, is a great venue, great for soccer, it's been good to the U.S. national team, the history of games there," Bradley said. "The fans here have always been behind the game. In all ways, it's a great situation."

Cuba, which has not qualified for the World Cup since 1938, is scheduled to host the United States on Sept. 6 in Havana. The Cubans' visit here would be the first by one of their national teams since March, when several members of the under-23 squad defected while in Tampa for the Olympic qualifying tournament.

U.S. Soccer Federation spokesman Michael Kammarman said a decision is "pretty close" on the other two semifinal-round home venues -- Sept. 10 against Trinidad and Tobago or Bermuda and Nov. 19 against Guatemala or St. Lucia.

Toyota Park near Chicago, Dick's Sporting Goods Park outside Denver and Home Depot Center are believed to be under consideration.

Before the U.S. team embarks on its qualifying schedule, it will play three major friendlies: at England (May 28) and Spain (June 4) and against Argentina on June 8 at Giants Stadium.

Bradley said a core of European-based players, whose club seasons will have ended, are set to join the team May 22 in London and remain together through the second Barbados game. Players from MLS, which is in season, will shuttle between their respective clubs and the national team, he said. It is possible, Bradley added, that some MLS players will not play in the three friendlies but be named to the qualifying roster.

"When you put all the schedules together, you have to balance a lot of things," he said. After determining which European-based players to select, "then we start working on the MLS piece to the puzzle, in terms of which players on which days. That is pretty complicated."

The upcoming rosters might include World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley, the fleet-footed wing who injured a knee ligament last fall and is just now returning to regular training with Scottish club Glasgow Rangers.

"He is hopeful that he is maybe going to get into some games before the end of the year and we would be hopeful then that he would be part of our group for those games leading into the qualifiers," Bradley said. "He is an important guy."

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