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USA vs. Ecuador, 2016 Friendly: What to watch for

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The challenges get meatier heading into the Copa America, and with the rest of the Copa America roster heading to Texas, Klinsmann's decisions get tougher.

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A 3-1 win in Puerto Rico is fine. A win against Ecuador would actually be something to build on. The South Americans are in Texas preparing for the Copa America just like the U.S., and will be much more stern competition for a side that still looked a bit out of sorts at times against a severely overmatched Puerto Rican team. The U.S. got some nice performances from Paul Arriola, Bobby Wood, and DeAndre Yedlin, but too much of the side won't be in the Copa America at all for many conclusions to be drawn from that result. A feather in Arriola's cap and a probable invite to post-Copa friendlies awaits. Now it's time to get down to business.

Ecuador has a rather cushy group on the surface, depending on which Brazilian side shows up to the tournament, but could be surprised by a stingy Peru side and the unbridled joy that is Haiti (seriously. Haiti is really, really fun to watch). They'll come into the match expecting to be on somewhat level footing with the U.S. The last time these two teams met was 2014, and they drew 1-1 in Landon Donovan's testimonial. What will this very different style of game hold?

Recent Form:

United States

W (3-1) - Puerto Rico - Friendly

W (4-0) - Guatemala - WCQ

L (0-2) - Guatemala - WCQ

W (1-0) - Canada - Friendly

W (3-2) - Iceland - Friendly

Ecuador

L (1-3) - Colombia - WCQ

D (2-2) - Paraguay - WCQ

W (3-1) - Venezuela - WCQ

W (2-1) - Uruguary - WCQ

W (2-0) - Bolivia - WCQ

What to Watch For:

A Muddled Midfield - Klinsmann's midfield is anyone's guess, and it stands to some sort of reason it will be figured out, more or less, in the next two games. Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley will be in here, as well as Darlington Nagbe coming off of some red-hot performances for the Timbers. Christian Pulisic will be there, but it doesn't seem certain when he'll arrive at camp, and even then, we don't know if Klinsmann trusts him to start as of yet. We can guess that Jones and Bradley are in here, but who else? One of the things I thought I knew for sure going into the Puerto Rico game was that Perry Kitchen was there for cover at defensive midfield. And then:

See what I mean? There's just no telling what's going on in this man's head. Look out for some midfield surprises; there are bound to be one or two.

Forward Press - There are three people who could realistically start as a true forward against Ecuador: Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, and Gyasi Zardes. All three have been utilized elsewhere on the field by Klinsmann in the last year, though, and Ecuador might be a good chance to see what Klinsmann considers to be his strongest attacking line. Gyasi Zardes has spent most of his time under Klinsmann on the wing, but he's also the only target forward on the roster with Jozy Altidore's absence. Bobby Wood is an out and out forward, but Klinsmann shuffled him to the left wing in a 4-3-3 against Guatemala, where he saw mild success. Dempsey is less a pure forward than an attacking floater, going wherever the game takes him up front or drifting back into midfield. I think all three will pay roles on Wednesday. It's just a matter of where they end up.

Defense in Dallas - The big story here isn't as much about who Klinsmann puts out for a defensive line as it is the people they'll be facing. U.S. fans will no doubt be familiar with Jefferson Montero and Enner Valencia, of Swansea City and West Ham United, respectively, thanks to the ubiquity of the Premier League in the States these days. The guy who actually scares me the most is Michael Arroyo of Club America. Don't sleep on this guy just because he doesn't play in Europe. His goals are bonkers.

Puerto Rico has no world class talent and still produced the best goal of the game on Sunday. Klinsmann's men are going to have to figure out how to shut down multiple players who can produce goals of that caliber at much higher levels of play. Can the U.S. stop Ecuador's attack, or at least contain them enough to grab a result? That answer will probably tell you what you need to know about the chances for the USMNT at the Copa.

Lineup Prediction:

I'm guessing Klinsmann will rest some players who played on Sunday that actually will have an important role in Copa America, so this is what I think his starting XI on Wednesday might look something like. This is also assuming that the roster for the Ecuador game will be the Copa America roster plus Kellyn Acosta, and not the same roster for the Puerto Rico game, but there's nothing anywhere that confirms that as of yet. I'm just guessing it would be more valuable to get your starters a game against the caliber of talent they'll be playing as opposed to playing some people who you'll have to send home in a week, you know?

The 4-3-3 Klinsmann rolled out against Guatemala was actually pretty effective, so that's why I think he changes it and does something closer to his formation against Puerto Rico. Pulisic has the longest trip of any midfielder called into camp on shortest notice (barring Timmy Chandler, and see below on him), and Bedoya just went 90 minutes in the Puerto Rican heat a couple days ago, so I think Zardes and Nagbe get the call on the wings. I fully understand that that central midfield situation is a weird one, but...that is where Bradley and Jones have been playing for their clubs, and you can't tell me Klinsmann has watched the attacking Jermaine Jones experiment in Colorado and hasn't started licking his lips a bit. It's a tactical jump, but would it be the craziest thing he's ever done? I still think Fabian Johnson and Geoff Cameron get held back a bit in this game, which opens the door for Matt Besler and Kellyn Acosta, who was added to the roster for the Ecuador match just before Timmy Chandler left Eintracht Frankfurt's relegation/promotion playoff with injury (initial reports say he's fine and reporting to camp). Having two candidates for left back who don't play left back injured and bringing in another person who doesn't play left back for cover has to be peak Klinsmann, really. Will this lineup succeed? Probably just as much as it fails, which seems par for the course.