Eyewitless Media, Part II - Welcome to America, Mr. Gonzalez

Raul Gonzalez, Head Coach of the Cuban National U-23's, has had a long, strange week.

He arrived in Florida on Monday with a soccer team. The next day, they astonished CONCACAF, the US Soccer community and quite possibly themselves by getting a draw against the star (and professional) studded USA side, which surely saw Cuba as not much more than a speed bump.

That night, during dinner, five members of his team - wearing the red warmups he had handed them a couple days before - slipped out a side door, got in a car owned by one of their grandfathers and disappeared into the balmy South Florida night.

The next morning Gonzalez conducted a practice and tried to rearrange his players and his tactics to compensate for a severely depleted roster, which became even more depleted a little later in the day when two more players hit the streets of Tampa, leaving him with a roster of 11, only ten of whom were eligible to suit up for the game against Honduras on Thursday.

And as if this wasn't bad enough, he then had to spend a couple hours in a meeting with Chuck Blazer, which for Gonzalez must have been a little strange: Blazer's suits probably cost more than Gonzalez makes in a year. Or two.

The next day he sent ten kids out onto the field, then watched the game from an empty bench because not only did he not have any players left, but just prior to the game his assistant coach disappeared. He hasn't been heard from since, but alien abduction is not considered the most likely scenario.

In an astonishing show of pride, guts and, yes, patriotism, for 68 minutes his woefully undermanned defense somehow managed to hold off Honduras - which treated them to a bombardment the likes of which hasn't been seen since the "Luftwaffe Over London Tour" of 1941 - until they succumbed to the inevitable.

In the media conference after the match, he understandably announced that he would gladly answer any questions about the match itself, but that he would not discuss the defections.

So of course the second question he got was about the defections.

(And reporters just can't understand why Americans rate them just above toe jam on the "things that disgust me" survey.)

Gonzalez, to his everlasting credit, got up and walked out.

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

His former players, meanwhile, bought cell phones and underwear, hired an attorney and accepted an invitation to try out for Miami FC next week which was then rescinded "after consultation with Federation officials", apparently because the status of their FIFA and nationality paperwork is, shall we say, a bit up in the air.

So whatever else Mr. G can say about this week, he has at least learned that a "Free Press" isn't necessarily a "Bright Press", something which American coaches have been coping with for generations.