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USA vs. Ecuador, 2019 Friendly: Scouting Ecuador

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The Berhalter era continues with a rematch between the 2016 Copa America quarterfinal opponents

Brazil v Ecuador - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team plays its third game of the Gregg Berhalter era against Ecuador in a friendly on March 21.

Ecuador comes into the match with a 3-1-1 record in its last five matches, although these games have come against relatively weak opponents (Guatemala, Qatar, Oman, Peru, and Panama).

Like the USMNT, La Tricolor are looking to put the disappointment of 2018 World Cup Qualifying behind them, as the team finished 8th out of 10 in CONMEBOL Qualifying.

Ecuador holds a slight edge in the all-time series against the USMNT, with a 5-4-5 record. However, the last match between the two teams ended in a 2-1 USMNT victory in the 2016 Copa America Quarterfinals.

Look for Ecuador coach Hernan Darío Gomez to deploy either a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. Ecuador is an athletic and aggressive side that should provide a tough test for the USMNT.

Ecuador Roster:

Goalkeepers (3): Maximo Banguera (Barcelona; 35/0), Alexander Domínguez (Velez Sarsfield, ARG; 47/0), Pedro Ortiz (Delfín; 0/0)

Defenders (8): Gabriel Achilier (Morelia, MEX; 38/1), Xavier Arreaga (Barcelona; 1/0), Beder Caicedo (Barcelona; 2/0), John Narváez (Melgar, PER; 2/0), Juan Carlos Paredes (Emelec; 73/0), Ángelo Preciado (Independiente del Valle; 4/0), Jackson Porozo (Santos, BRA; 0/0), Cristian Ramirez (Krasnodar, RUS; 18/1)

Midfielders (8): Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas, USA; 20/0), Renato Ibarra (Club América, MEX; 37/1), Romario Ibarra (Minnesota United FC; 6/3), Jefferson Intriago (LDU Quito; 4/0), Jhegson Méndez (Orlando City SC, USA; 5/0), Jefferson Orejuela (LDU Quito; 12/0), Ayrton Preciado (Santos Laguna, MEX; 9/0), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United, ENG; 93/11)

Forwards (4): Leonardo Campana (Barcelona; 0/0), Ángel Mena (Club León, MEX; 9/3), Jhohan Julio (LDU Quito; 0/0), Enner Valencia (Tigres UANL, MEX; 46/27)

Projected Lineup:

This is a mostly first-choice Ecuador roster, however they are missing regulars Miller Bolanos and Jefferson Montero.

There’s little separating goalkeepers Alexander Dominguez and Maximo Banguera, with each of them having an excellent chance to start. I’m predicting that Dominguez will get the start. The 6’5’’ goalkeeper is a solid shot stopper, but his distribution is quite poor.

Expect Robert Arboleda and Gabriel Achilier to feature as centerbacks. Arboleda is dominant in the air and is a good man-marker, but his passing leaves much to be desired. Achilier is a solid passer and good 1 v. 1. defender, but he receives far too many cards.

Cristian Ramirez, of Russian Premier League side Krasnodar, will likely earn the start at left back. Ramirez is probably the best defender on this roster and is a solid crosser who will look to get involved in the attack. However, his tackling should be much better than it is. Juan Carlos Paredes should feature at right back. Paredes is a good dribbler, who like Ramirez will often look to get involved offensively, but his 1 v. 1 defending is surprisingly poor for a man with 73 caps.

Look for FC DallasCarlos Gruezo and Orlando City’s Jhegson Mendez to start as defensive midfielders. Gruezo is an excellent tackler who looks to make short, quick passes in order to jump start his team’s attack. He is prone to occasional lapses in concentration that cause him to seem lost on the field.

Zenit St Petersburg’s Christian Noboa could start at central midfield, but he just returned from a cruciate ligament injury so his minutes may be limited. Noboa is a box-to-box midfielder with an impressive passing range, and a high workrate. His only real weakness is his finishing.

Expect Romario Ibarra to feature on the left wing. The Minnesota United man is quite fast and a lethal finisher inside the box, but he contributes little defensively. Renato Ibarra is even faster than his brother Romario and the two are relatively similar players. Renato is a playmaker with a good passing range and crossing ability.

Look for either Enner Valencia or Angel Mena to start at striker. Mena has been in better form than Valencia (9 goals and 8 assists in 11 appearances during the 2019 Liga MX Clausura compared to Valencia’s 2 goals and 1 assist), but I’m predicting Valencia will get the start due to his significant international experience (46 caps compared to Mena’s 9).

Valencia is a good dribbler, with blistering pace, who frequently looks to cut inside from wide positions. However, his hold up play and passing are quite poor.

Ecuador is a solid side that has the potential to make things difficult for the USMNT. I’m predicting a 2-1 USMNT victory.