Wednesday night Ecuador came to Texas to face the United States in an important warmup for the upcoming Copa America Centenario to be played here across the US. In June. The Americans open next week against Colombia and fans were treated to what most likely will be the starting eleven tonight.
It was a fairly quiet opening as both sides played their way into the match. Ecuador was getting the better of play but Deandre Yedlin and John Brooks were looking quite capable in the back making several nice early interventions.
Everyone held their breaths in the 15th minute when Jermaine Jones took a knock and went to ground holding an ankle. After a short delay he hopped up and continued. Not a player the Americans can afford to lose pre-tournament.
Shortly after, keeper Brad Guzan had to deal with a ball from a tight angle as Jefferson Montero got around Yedlin on the left flank. Guzan was up to the task though as he pushed the shot to safety. It would the only real action for Guzan in a very quiet night.
The Americans earned a dangerous set piece in the 23rd minute as Gyasi Zardes went up for a 50/50 header and caught an elbow from Gabriel Achilier who got a yellow for his actions. Clint Dempsey whizzed the free kick over the crossbar though. The game was opening up though. A nice little combination between Zardes and Clint Dempsey in the 30th minute sent Zardes in on goal. His first touch was a bit heavy though leading to a collision with the onrushing Maximo Banguera who left Ecuador net to make the play. The game would go to the break scoreless.
Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood entered after halftime. Hopefully the two could bring a bit more life to the American attack. It took 59 minutes for the US to generate their first shot on goal as Jermaine Jones fired from twenty five yards out straight into the arms of Ecuador substitute keeper Estaban Dreer.
The US were suddenly on the front foot though as an attack through Bobby Wood led to a Clint Dempsey chance that was blocked. The rebound came out to Michael Bradley to drive a ball just over the crossbar. Better from the Americans as Bobby Wood was having far more impact than Zardes did in the opening half.
The best attack of the night to that point came in the 71st as Pulisic led down the left flank. He brought the ball back to Zusi who made a great penetrating run before sliding the ball thru the Ecuador six yard box. Alejandro Bedoya raced in and fired from a tight angle. The crowd groaned as the shot rolled inches wide of the far post and out for a goal kick.
The Americans were pushing as they were bossing the match. The only question was would Ecuador be able to keep the Americans from finding the winner? They would not as the Americans would break the deadlock in the 90th minute. A nice move and cross from Deandre Yedlin led to an errant clearing header from Ecuador. Bobby Wood rose in the center of the box and won the header for Darlington Nagbe to take off his chest and fire home from the six. 1-0 to the USA and deservedly so.
Game over and a very nice win for Jurgen Klinsmann and the boys. The Americans face Bolivia on Saturday in an exhibition at Kansas City in their final warmup, then open the Copa America against 4th ranked Colombia on June 3 in California.
Final Thoughts on the Match -----
Michael Bradley still clearly the heart
Not good enough - Zardes (maybe lost starting spot?)
Not good enough - Zusi (non factor for an hour. Finally awoke after 60th)
Nice impacts from Nagbe, Bedoya & Bobby Wood
Centerback pairing of Birnbaum & John Brooks looks solid
Christian Pulisic not overwhelmed & looks the part
Deandre Yedlin battled with Montero early provided winning cross late