A Cuban player has defected during the Gold Cup, leaving the team hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In an interview aired Sunday on Univision, the U.S. Spanish-language TV network, Yosniel Mesa says he decided before the tournament to defect.

Mesa says the decision was difficult, but the 30-year-old wants to play professionally and that's not possible in Cuba.

After Cuba lost to Mexico 5-0 in Charlotte on Thursday, Mesa says he climbed down a fire escape ladder at the hotel and ran to a car where family members were waiting.

Mesa was listed as ''injured'' on Cuba's roster for Sunday's 6-1 loss to El Salvador in Chicago. The team left the stadium immediately after the game, with coach Raul Gonzalez skipping the postgame news conference.

Two Cuban players defected during the 2007 Gold Cup.