Cuba U20 was able to secure a shock 1-0 over Canada in their opening match of the CONCACAF U-20 championship. Cuba sat deep in a 4-3-3, looking to hit Canada on the counter. Dairon Reyes played in a false 9 role while Kevin Martin and Jose Paradela operated as the main goal threats. Cuba only had 29% possession but they still created the much better chances in the match. Cuba’s goalkeeper was sent off after 70 minutes and, without any more sub-windows, Cuba was forced to put Martin in goal. But the Cubans managed to hold firm and prevent Canada from generating many dangerous scoring chances.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: Cuban
- Age: 18
- Date of Birth: 02/09/2003
- Current club: Camagüey
- Career: Camagüey
- Position: Left Wing
- Preferred Foot: Right
Kevin Martin was by far the standout player of the game. He scored a goal, looked dangerous throughout, and even played in goal for 20 minutes when Cuba’s keeper was sent off and they had used all of their substitute windows.
Martin gave the Canadian defence fits, playing on the left side of a front three in an inside forward role. Martin scored Cuba’s goal in the match, which was nice, but what really drew me to him was his ability to consistently be dangerous throughout the game. Martin had 6 shots in this match which I think is pretty impressive considering Cuba was the underdog. A couple of these shots were from a slightly ludicrous distance so someone should definitely get in his ear about xG but overall he was a serious problem for the Canadian defenders.
Martin showed pretty good close control and frequently cut inside, looking to shoot from distance. He did get tackled quite a bit when cutting inside, sometimes he was just looking to push the ball past a player rather than dribble, but at the same time, he was able to get quite a lot of shots away. Part of the reason for his success was Martin’s strong physical traits. He’s not the tallest player but he’s quite strong and quick enough to give defenders a hard time. He won a couple of fouls just by being quicker than Canadian defenders who had no choice but to take him down.
Martin had really strong off-the-ball movement. He was good at finding space to receive passes both when he was making runs in behind and when receiving passes in the buildup. His passing was a little bit inconsistent. He attempted a couple of big switches of play that didn’t really come off and other than that he kept it short. His first instinct was usually to shoot in any case so he didn’t demonstrate much passing in this match.
In this match, Martin showed a lot of things that suggest a positive attitude. He could be seen encouraging teammates throughout the match and he volunteered to go in goal when his keeper was sent off. I think that shows a lot of self-confidence and a willingness to step up for his team.
Martin plays in the Cuban domestic league. He played directly against players in the academies of Lazio and Bristol City(not quite the same thing but you see what I’m getting at). He consistently got the better of those players so I would say he can definitely play at a higher level. Unfortunately, US-Cuba relations being what they are, it’s always a bit fraught for a Cuban player to sign for an American club (though there have been some Cubans to play in the US without defecting lately). However, quite a lot of Cubans have made their way to Central American leagues so I would say that’s probably where Martin will end up if he goes abroad. But he would also be an interesting project for clubs in Europe, perhaps in a bit of a smaller league.
- Nationality: Cuban
- Age: 19
- Date of Birth: 09/01/2003
- Current club: Matanzas
- Career: Matanzas
- Position: Winger
- Preferred Foot: Right
Jose Paradela had a bit of hype going into this tournament (to the extent Cuban youth players can have hype) because he is the younger brother of Luis Paradela, one of the start players of Cuba’s senior national team. He showed some flashes in this game but for the most part, it wasn’t a terribly convincing performance.
Paradela has great physical traits. He was quite good at shielding the ball and winning physical duels. He also had quite a strong first touch and close control which made him effective at shielding the ball. He also put in a lot of work defensively, tracking back and putting pressure on Canadian defenders. Unfortunately, the quality of his defence was not that good. Though he did pressure the ball a lot he did not win it back very often. In fact, Kwasi Poku and Matteo Campagna got the better of him quite a lot.
Offensively he was a bit lacking in creativity. There were a lot of aimless crosses into the box. He didn’t look very confident in his ability to beat players and as such he was often passing backwards or just lumping the ball in the general direction of the Canada box. In contrast to Martin on the other side, he really struggled to gain separation from defenders and get shots off.
He did, however, show some decent passing in more central areas of the pitch. He combined well with teammates and was a bit unlucky that some of his link-up play didn’t lead to more chances for himself and others.
Paradela did show some elements that could lead to him developing into a solid player. But this performance did not blow me away by any means.