An Ecuador squad with players representing clubs in Europe, Latin America, and MLS took on the US Men’s National Team in the first friendly for the Stars and Stripes with a full contingent of top choice players representing clubs in Europe, Latin America, and MLS available for Gregg Berhalter. Ultimately, the US would come away with a 1-0 win on the back of a late goal from Gyasi Zardes.
The US had a good start to the match keeping possession and pushing into the Ecuador defensive third - or at least were let in by a defensive minded Ecuador. Berhalter’s perhaps questionable decision to start Tyler Adams at right back, though pushing into central midfield and down the right flank, seemed to work out. Perhaps one of the main issues for the Stars and Stripes in the match was Tim Ream at left back. The position is a permanent problem with no obvious answer and Ream had a few early miscues leaving open space for Ecuador to exploit on a counter attack.
Through the first half, Ecuador seemed content to defend and generally frustrate the US attacks. Former Panama coach Hernan Gomez had his team well prepared in the ways of Concacaf for a stout defensive effort in the first 45. Still, when the US was able to string together a few quick passes, they found space between the defenders of La Tri.
The best chance early for the US came when Trapp, McKennie, Zardes, and Pulisic played one touch until the soon to be Chelsea man backheeled a pass to the feet of Paul Arriola who slammed his shot into the feet of Ecuadorian keeper Alexander Dominguez.
Perfect buildup, #USMNT on the hunt for that opener. Keep pushing. pic.twitter.com/B4FHRgLVlZ— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 22, 2019
Yes, that was Gyasi Zardes with a good touch (he had some bad ones too (and some good ones too), but it’s just a friendly).
Ecuador didn’t exactly change their tactics in the second half, but the visitors seemed to notice that with Adams pushing forward and into the center of the field, there would be space where he would normally occupy as a typical right back. Luckily, Aaron Long and Weston McKennie provided cover on the occasions when La Tri could have had a scoring chance and aside from some tense moments, the US defense held strong.
By the 70th minute, Berhalter brought Michael Bradley in for Wil Trapp, Sebastian Lletget in for Christian Pulisic, and DeAndre Yedlin in for Jordan Morris, and Christian Roldan taking over for McKennie who went down with a sprained left ankle. Following the subs, it took the Stars and Stripes a few minutes to settle back into the game.
It didn’t really matter though as Zardes put the USA ahead on a goal that can best be described as: Huh?
ON THE BOARD! A @gyasinho strike puts the #USMNT in front! pic.twitter.com/rxLdlWkZMG— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 22, 2019
This goal has everything - poor goalkeeper positioning, a pretty well executed chip from Gyasinho, and an assist by Tim Ream. I’d like to see Josh Sargent do that (no really, I’d really like to see it). Another miscue at left back almost gave Ecuador an equalizer, but the US saw the game out to come away with the victory.
Overall, things looked promising for the USA. Not only did the team win 1-0 on a hilarious mistake by the opposing keeper, but the team had about two jet-lagged days to come together and learn exactly what Berhalter had in mind. That said, Ecuador may have been more obliging in letting the US keep the ball and try to break them down, but Chile should present a much tougher challenge for the team. While it’s just a friendly, it will also be the biggest challenge for the team under Berhalter in his early tenure as manager.