Cuba looks forward to new era

Adrian Arturo Diz Pe (red jersey) is expected to be one of the players that helps to launch a youth movement for Cuba's national team. (Photo: Mexsport)

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup just might signal a changing of the guard for Cuba.

Head coach Raul Gonzalez supposes it may be time for an infusion of younger players into the lineup.

"We learned certain things," he said.  "We learned that certain players may have been in the team for a long time.  Maybe they're on the downhill, on their way out.  But we have a strong cadre of young players from the under-20 team that are going to be able to come in and form a strong team, a competitive team going forward for Cuban football."

Cuba's Gold Cup experience was bookended by a pair of 6-0 losses to countries that many observers feel could meet in the final -- Mexico (Group C opener) and the United States (quarterfinals).  A 1-0 victory over Guatemala in its last group game guaranteed a second straight trip to knockout rounds.

In addition to personnel decisions, Gonzalez also looked towards as preparation as an area to address.

"The first lesson is that we have to prepare better," the 47-year-old noted.  "We have to prepare better to get where we want to go.  The preparation for this match wasn't where we needed to be.

"Secondly, opponents come to this tournament prepared for everything, prepared to win the title.  In our case, our preparation time is very short.”

The Cubans also were forced to play Saturday without injured veteran midfielder Yenier Marquez, who competed in his eighth Gold Cup.

"He's an important player for us," Gonzalez commented. "He had a knock and he didn't quite recover, so we gave a chance to some younger players.  Maybe the stage maybe was a little bit too big for the players.  Maybe they didn't perform as we would have liked.  We have confidence in them."

Gonzalez needs to maintain that faith especially since Cuba is targeting a place in the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship tournament for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  The Cubans will face Jamaica in Haiti on August 14 for one of two Caribbean berths.

Among those players who featured for Cuba on Saturday were defenders Adrian Arturo Diz Pe and Andy Vaquero, as well as midfielder Daniel Luis.

"We had five players here from that Olympic team," Gonzalez finished.  "Probably we should have brought more."