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Slowing down Jefferson Montero is key to victory for USA against Ecuador

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The Premier League winger is a great concern for the USMNT back line

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Ecuador boast several recognizable names to anyone who follows the Premier League on a regular basis. You likely know of Antonio Valencia of Manchester United fame. There's a good chance you are aware of his namesake Enner Valencia who stars for West Ham. However, it's Swansea City's dynamic winger Jefferson Montero who should be the focus of the USA's defensive gameplan tonight.

When these two teams met in late May, DeAndre Yedlin did the best he possibly could have against Montero and it was only slightly good enough. The 26-year-old still caused several problems for the USMNT's back line during that friendly despite Yedlin's best efforts.

This should be a major cause for concern in this quarterfinal match-up considering Yedlin is suspended and will likely be replaced at right back by Michael Orozco. While the Club Tijuana man is a serviceable defender in his own right, he certainly doesn't have the pace that Yedlin used to keep up with Montero in Frisco.

Orozco will need to use his intelligence and guile to contain Montero. There's just no way that the versatile U.S. defender will be able to keep up on the flanks. You can expect to see a lot of crosses from Ecuador's left wing. It will again be up to Geoff Cameron and John Brooks to be flawless in their clearances and marking like they were against Paraguay for the most part.

The center backs will be on high alert all night long when Ecuador have possession on the flanks, but it's up to Orozco not to get beat with skill or pace to the danger spots on the field. This means not falling for feints or fake shots and being disciplined. Keeping the winger concealed to the flank and not allowing him to cut inside and isolate against one of the center backs will be crucial to the USA's defensive shape.

As we saw in the final group match, anything in the air is John Brooks' territory. The U.S. should feel extremely confident in defending crosses from open play after that performance. It's up to Orozco and Johnson to force Ecuador into crosses and not let their wingers into the box heading towards the center backs with speed. That's when the real danger will come.

Yedlin's absence in defending Montero is not ideal, but if Orozco is smart and pushes him to the outside for crosses it's not a huge concern with the human vacuum cleaner Brooks there for support.