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Cubas national soccer team arrived in Houston on Monday afternoon to play its final Gold Cup qualifying round match on Wednesday against Honduras.

The Cubans flew from Newark, New Jersey on a commercial flight of just under three and a half hours along with the players of the Mexican team.

The Group C Gold Cup program for Wednesday at Reliant Stadium pits Cuba (1 point) against Honduras (3 points) in a must win situation for the islanders. The game begins at 7:00 p.m. Earlier in the day Mexico (3 points) plays Panama (4 points) on the same field.

The top two teams of each of the three groups along with the best two third places will qualify for the second round of play.

In games played Sunday in Miami, Guadalupe (4 points) went from the surprise leader of Group A to third place after losing 1-0 to Costa Rica (4 points). Canada (6 points) beat Haiti (2 points) by a 2-0 score to finish first.

Guadalupe, defeated by Cuba for third place in the last Caribbean Cup, now has 12 players that play in professional leagues in France, Holland and England.

Cubas Reynier Alcantara of Pinar del Rio, who scored goals against both Mexico and Panama, is just behind Honduran Carlos Costly as the Gold Cups leading scorer.

Coach Raul Gonzalez Triana said Monday that he will make some changes in the starting lineup for Wednesday. These include taking out right side defender Jorge Luis Clavelo and moving Gisbel Morales to the left side of the field, due to the yellow cards accumulated by Silvio Pedro.

The Cuban teams physical therapist has his work cut out with several players suffering from muscle strains, especially workhorse Alain Cervantes, who was forced to leave the game against Panama in the second period with cramps.

Another ailing player unable to fully recover from muscle pains he brought from Havana is defender Joel Colome.

The first two Gold Cup matches were held with only 48 hours between them in a test of physical preparedness and the ability to recover on time.

Before boarding the plane, Mexican forward Cuauthemoc Blanco told Granma he was surprised by the game played by the Cubans and said several of its players were impressive.

"The criticisms about us are logical, we are not doing things well, but tomorrow we expect to qualify and that will be a matter of the past," said Blanco in reference to the wave of attacks from the Mexican press.

Source: Miguel Hernández, Granma

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