The United States Men’s National Team are back in action tomorrow night in Orlando as they take on Ecuador. Coach Gregg Berhalter will have his first chance with a roster mixed with European-based and MLS-based players, and he looks to continue to build on his wins against Panama and Costa Rica during January Camp. In Ecuador, the USMNT face a South American team that should be a nice test as they progress towards this summer’s Gold Cup. While Ecuador did not make last summer’s World Cup, they were a part of the field in 2014 along with the Americans, and a few players remain from that team that lost to the U.S. in the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
W (2-0) - Costa Rica - Friendly
W (3-0) - Panama - Friendly
L (0-1) - Italy - Friendly
L (0-3) - England - Friendly
D (1-1) - Peru - Friendly
W (2-1) - Panama - Friendly
W (2-0) - Peru - Friendly
D (0-0) - Oman - Friendly
L (3-4) - Qatar - Friendly
W (2-0) - Guatemala - Friendly
What To Watch For
Tyler Adams at...right back? We will get to see how Tyler Adams adapts to playing the right back role in Berhalter’s offense, as the coach mentioned that he will operate in that role, while normal right back DeAndre Yedlin will play on the wing. Fans can look to how Nick Lima played in that role during January Camp, where he shifted into a central midfielder role but also was responsible for covering the right flank, to see how Adams will be employed against Ecuador. Adams has some right back experience, but how will he manage with the workload this formation presents the right back position?
Can the defensive organization maintain? Berhalter will likely take some of the usual starters and have them play a little bit out of their normal positions. However, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for the team. Berhalter has been up front about how he plans to play some of these established starters, and the question will be whether the team can continue to be organized on the defensive end. Communication is key amongst the Ecuadorian attackers, who will have some movement. With Zack Steffen out due to injury, the defense will have to continue to be on the same page in front of expected starter Ethan Horvath.
How will Christian Pulisic play in Berhalter’s attack? Most fans are excited to see how Christian Pulisic will feature in this offense. He should have plenty of room to roam both on the right and in the middle, which seem to be where he prefers to play. He will have the responsibility of creating the attack and pushing his team forward. Let’s see if that can happen.
With the European stars back in the mix, we should see Gregg Berhalter put them in some positions that may appear unnatural but are areas where the guys can flourish. Here’s what we could see tomorrow night against Ecuador.
At goalkeeper, with Steffen out, the previously mentioned Ethan Horvath will likely get the start. In front of him on defense, we will see Daniel Lovitz on the left, mainly because he’s really the only option that we have at left back. In the middle, John Brooks and Matt Miazga will likely form the centerback pairing, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Berhalter went with Aaron Long instead of Miazga. Berhalter was impressed with Long’s play and leadership during January Camp, and he may wish to give him another shot against some stiffer competition. On the right, Tyler Adams gets the start, but will float into that central midfielder slot at times while still holding the responsibility of taking care of the right side when tracking back on defense.
In the middle, Berhalter will go with Michael Bradley as the defensive midfielder. He loves his ability, and he will likely turn to him over Wil Trapp in that role. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie will slot right in front of him, McKennie playing that box-to-box midfielder role while Pulisic employs a more creative role with the ball at his feet and leading the attack.
Up front, Berhalter may look to Paul Arriola to work the left flank while DeAndre Yedlin will be the winger on the right. Expect both to have responsibilities on defense as well and track back at times, but also tuck in when there is some overlap on offense from Lovitz or even Adams. Finally, Berhalter loves how Gyasi Zardes plays as the central striker in his offense, so while it may be a sight that fans don’t want to see, expect to see him start the match up top.
There are several experiments that Berhalter will be hoping pays off in this match, and in the end many of them will prove to be the difference. Christian Pulisic will score one and set up another to Paul Arriola, and while the defense lets Ecuador get one goal, the match ends in a 2-1 USMNT victory.