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Long Path to MLS for Cuba's Defectors
USA Today, March 18th, 2008 4PM

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The seven players who defected from Cuba's Olympic qualifying team hope to follow in the footsteps of Chivas USA star Maykel Galindo, who defected to the U.S. in the summer of 2005, before joining the MLS club in January 2007. "He not only influenced me but influenced all of us who made the decision," goalkeeper Jose Manuel Miranda told USA Today. Miranda made several fantastic saves during last Tuesday's 1-1 draw with the U.S. He and four other teammates defected later that night; two more followed them the next day. Undermanned, Cuba lost its next two games, and failed to qualify for this summer's Olympics.

Meanwhile, the path to MLS won't be so simple for the defectors. First, the players have to fill out asylum applications and wait for approval before being able to play professionally in the U.S. Galindo, for example, had to play for the Seattle Sounders as an amateur before getting clearance.

"You do get frustrated and a little bit desperate because you don't want to be out of the game too long," says Lester More, who defected from the Cuban national team last year and signed with the USL's Charleston Battery last week.

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