The U.S. fell to Ecuador 1-0 at Red Bull Arena last night to run their record under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann to 1-3-1, with two goals scored.
Not a rousing start for the new boss, results-wise, but fortunately, results don’t matter right now, and there were some encouraging signs last night.
The Yanks dominated the first half and played some stylish one-touch soccer. The five U.S. substitutions in the second half changed the game, and not for the better.
Let’s look at the ups and downs of the new boss’s fifth outing with the team:
1. Oguchi Onyewu is 100% Again
Gooch is back to his old self, positioning well, cutting out entry passes, and of course, winning anything in the air within a 20-yard radius of his 6-4, 210-pound frame. He even got into the attack a few times last night, and nearly set up Clint Dempsey for a late equalizer. His rock-solid presence also lifted centerback partner Carlos Bocanegra, who was able to play more aggressively. They were a first-class duo last night; too bad Bocanegra is 32 and unlikely to be on the Brazil 2014 roster (Gooch is 29. And just as a refresher, his wife looks like this.)
2. Remember those slow starts under Bob Bradley?
The team appears to have been cured of that condition under Klinsmann, and last night the U.S. got off to a lightning-fast start, with Jozy Altidore testing Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera in the very first minute, and Brek Shea following suit four minutes later (a play not included in the highlights below).
3. Left-side lockdown
The left-back, left-wing combination of Timmy Chandler and Shea had another quality outing, controlling play on that side of the field and completely hemming in none other than Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia. This is a huge development in an area that has long been a trouble spot for the USMNT. Said Klinsmann afterward: “[Valencia] is a very, very good player but you couldn’t see him at all because Timmy Chandler closed him completely down.”
1. Tim Ream played himself out of the pool—for now.
Klinsmann inserted Ream into the game in the 71st minute—no doubt to give the 24-year-old a taste of national-team play in his home stadium. But the move proved costly as Ream was slow to react to Jaime Ayovi’s knifing run in front of goal eight minutes later. Ayovi beat the Red Bulls defender to the cross (from Ayovi’s cousin, Walter Ayovi) and nodded home the game’s only goal. It was a rudimentary lapse by Ream, a talented player who has admitted to a sophomore slump this season. He needs to re-focus his game at the club level before he gets another call-up from Klinsmann.
There was a promising sequence (also not included below; what’s up with that, US Soccer?) late in the first half in which the U.S. strung together a series of one-touch passes around the Ecuador box, with Shea finding Maurice Edu about nine yards out in front of goal, then darting toward the net. Edu, in an apparent attempt to play it back to Shea, instead rolled the ball harmlessly into Banguera’s arms. It counted as a shot, but it may as well have been a backpass. The U.S. created several other opportunities in front of Ecuador’s goal, but the final ball was always sub-standard. Ironic for a team coached by one of the greatest finishers of all time.
3. Right-Side Wrongs
The normally steady Steve Cherundolo had an off night, struggling to contain the speedy Jefferson Montero and turning the ball over uncharacteristically. Three times he attempted the same move of faking a backpass to Tim Howard before turning toward the sideline and trying to advance upfield past pressure—and it failed all three times. Cherundolo’s halftime replacement, Jonathan Spector, was even worse. The Birmingham City man was torched soon after coming on, and later awkwardly headed a cross right to Montero at the edge of the box.