Tuesday, March 27
Stories Of the Day: Do You Believe in Miracles? Nevermind
Another Tournament, Another Disappearance: It seemed as though Cuba was finally going to survive a tournament in North America without losing any players to defection. Then news came out of Nashville during the team’s final group match today that Yosmel de Armas, who started in the team’s 4-0 loss two days prior, was listed as “not present” on the roster, immediately sparking rumors of defection.
Miracle Day for Cuba: The possible defection aside, it was a day for believers. On the same day the Pope made his first visit to the nation of Cuba since his predecessor 14 years ago, the Cuban national team found their own miracle in Nashville. In the first minute of stoppage time Maykel Reyes headed in a free kick to stun Canada for a surprising 1-1 draw. The result locked the Canucks into second place in the group and an unfortunate pairing with a red hot Mexican side that has dominated its group while also opening the door back up for the United States to finish first, as was expected.
Prayer Plentiful in Prime Time: With the shocking result of the first contest in the doubleheader, the second match between El Salvador and the United States turned into a thriller that had fans of both sides praying for rallies throughout the affair. The US scored just seconds into the match courtesy of Terrence Boyd and looked ready to resume a role as regional power.
Then two minutes in the middle of the half completely reversed the momentum. Mark Blanco headed in a corner in the 35th to level it up and Andres Flores tallied less than two minutes later to give El Salvador a commanding advantage, needing only a draw to move on.
Boyd would strike again for a resurgent US in the middle of the second half, equalizing in the 65th. Then Joe Corona gave the hosts the 3-2 lead eight minutes later. But just when it looked like the miracle was going to happen for the United States, El Salvador found fortune in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Jaime Alas scored from long range for a 3-3 draw, giving the nation the opportunity to reach the Olympics for the first time since 1968.