Recap: USMNT 1–0 Ecuador

The US beat Ecuador on Wednesday night, 1–0, with a 90th-minute goal from second-half substitute Darlington Nagbe. It was his first international goal, and capped an excellent appearance by the Portland Timbers attacker.

First half

The US lined up in a 4-3-3, with Clint Dempsey, somewhat surprisingly, in the center forward role. Ecuador began the game doing everything fast, with the key matchup between Jefferson Montero and DeAndre Yedlin on the US right. To Yedlin’s credit, while Montero saw a good amount of the ball, Yedlin kept him quiet. The other members of the US defense did well, too, with John Brooks coming to the rescue on a few occasions, as Ecuador dominated possession but failed to seriously trouble the US goal.

For the US’s part, the team struggled to find any fluency, with Ecuador breaking up play with vigor, often too much, earning four yellow cards in the first half. Dempsey was very isolated, and dropped deeper and deeper to get on the ball. In truth, the game was pedestrian, with neither team doing much. The best chance of the first half, for either team, came in the 29th. Dempsey finally received a ball in a good position and turned, then found Gyasi Zardes over the top. Zardes was in alone, but his first touch was too heavy and brought the defense to him.

Second half

Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood Wood replaced Kyle Beckerman and Gyasi Zardes at the half, with Bradley moving back into the No. 6 role. The improvement of the US was immediate, if not dramatic, with the team finally able to maintain some possession past the halfway line. Around the hour mark, both substitutes made good crosses into the Ecuador box, but neither resulted in shots on goal.

In the 63rd, two more subs entered–Christian Pulisic for Dempsey, and Alejandro Bedoya for Jones–and the US improved some more. In the 71st, Graham Zusi did well to scythe through the Ecuador defense and cross back through the six-yard box. Bedoya met it at the other side, but his shot just missed the far corner. In the 75th, Pulisic juked his man high on the left and crossed dangerously; the ball fell to Wood, but his touch was too hard, and the ball was cleared.

As the clock ticked to 90, the US looked to be settling for a draw, but a cross from the right wing was headed back across goal by the Ecuador defense. Wood knocked it down to Nagbe, who cushioned it on his chest before scoring with a scissor kick as he fell to the ground. There was some late anxiety as Ecuador took a free kick from just outside the box, but the shot sailed well high and the US took the 1–0 win.

US verdict

Play your kids: We could use that heading for all four points here. This game turned on the young players on the US roster playing without fear: Nagbe, Wood, Yedlin, Birnbaum, Brooks, Pulisic all looked at home and ready to contribute.

Defense looks surprisingly solid: This backline of Yedlin, Brooks, Birnbaum, and Johnson had never played together before, but looked pretty good, especially considering how much pressure they withstood in the first half. Matt Besler still seems an odds-on favorite to play, probably displacing Birnbaum, but it was a very positive outing.

Bradley at the 6: With Bradley at the six, the whole team looked more stable. More than that, his move back opened a spot at the 10 for Nagbe, which made the US much more dangerous. It’s not a move that should be complicated, but Klinsmann has been reluctant to play him there. Fingers crossed Bradley stays there permanently.

Darling Darlington / Pulisic!: Both these players were good additions to the game. Nagbe had an almost perfect outing, including scoring the winner, of course, and Pulisic looked fearless and inventive. Now they just need to play!

Final thoughts

This game started slow, but the second half substitutions made all the difference. Ecuador tried to overrun the US in the first half, failed, and the US responded, making all the danger in the second half and eventually scoring a deserved winner. We should be reluctant to draw too many conclusions, as the game at times seemed very much like what it was, a meaningless warm-up friendly, but the US couldn’t have asked for a whole lot better.

1-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 6-John Brooks (5-Matt Besler, 78), 23-Fabian Johnson; 15-Kyle Beckerman (10-Darlington Nagbe, 46), 19-Graham Zusi (14-Michael Orozco, 87), 13-Jermaine Jones (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 64), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 9-Gyasi Zardes (7-Bobby Wood, 46), 8-Clint Dempsey (17-Christian Pulisic, 63)
Subs not used: 12-Tim Howard, 22-William Yarbrough, 16-Perry Kitchen, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 20-Geoff Cameron, 21-Kellyn Acosta
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

22-Alexander Domínguez (12-Esteban Dreer, 46); 4-Juan Carlos Paredes, 3-Frickson Erazo, 21-Gabriel Achilier (20-Robert Arboleda, 73), 5-Cristian Ramirez; 6-Christian Noboa (capt.) (8-Fernando Gaibor, 69), 18-Carlos Gruezo (15-Pedro Larrea, 59), 14-Angel Mena, 7-Jefferson Montero (11-Michael Arroyo, 64); 13-Enner Valencia, 23-Miller Bolaños (19-Juan Cazares, 68)
Subs not used: 1-Maximo Banguera, 9-Fidel Martinez, 17-Jaime Ayovi, 24-Mario Pineida
Head coach: Gustavo Quinteros

Scoring Summary
USA — Darlington Nagbe (Bobby Wood) — 90th minute

Misconduct Summary
ECU — Gabriel Achilier (caution) — 22nd minute
USA — Jermaine Jones (caution) — 26
ECU — Cristian Ramirez (caution) — 35
ECU — Angel Mena (caution) — 45

Stats Summary (USA / ECU)
Shots: 5 / 3
Shots on Goal: 2 / 1
Saves: 1 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 6
Fouls: 16 / 16
Offside: 0 / 2

Referee: Alfredo Penaloza (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Mario Lopez Carrillo (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Andres Hernandez (MEX)
4th Official: Oscar Macias (MEX)

Venue: Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas
Attendance: 9,893


  1. HopkinsMD says:

    It would be fun to see the lineup that ended the game START the game.

    • Is there anything more to say? 100%.

    • Exactly. I truly don’t understand Jks reluctance to play Bradley at the 6. It is clearly his best position and better for the team. Bring jones on late to kill games.

    • pragmatist says:

      Just so you know we’re all in agreement, +1 here.
      Be done with the old guard. Move on to the actual skilled players.

      • all of a sudden: Wood up top. Dempsey in hole where he likes to drift… Pulisic and or Johnson and Nagbe out wide. Bradley in the 6…. DUH. Beckerman with his poise and positional responsibility…
        Yedlin RB Johnson LB Brooks (who oh by the way has gotten his man body last year and a half). Cameron.
        This is a team capable of building play… this is a team capable of organized pressing defense quick transition country strike… this is ALL a no brainer.
        Christian Pulisic was on the field and showed no fear… none… easily the most technical player— unmatched acceleration- blew past number 4 at one point last night…..… a few turnovers but he’s 17…

  2. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    Everything that Klinnsman said he would do, he has not. I can’t wait until his contract is up.

  3. Jim Presti says:

    Not to nit pick but Nagbe is 26. He’s not a kid. Even Yedlin, Wood, and Brooks are in their early 20s with plenty of professional and international experience. The only “youngster” is Pulisic.

    • +1. The best is when media members write about the time he has for his game to grow and learn…. ummmm he’s pretty well in his prime and damn well should be a starting player at the international level… this learning should have happened… never mind.
      — wish I got paid to be obtuse.

  4. Yes, Nagbe is only 8 months younger than Jozy!

  5. One could see how well Pulisic has been coached. If you watch how he positions himself without the ball, he is very sophisticated . How well he positions himself defensively to cut of passing lanes. Obviously well coached and what a huge plus to have a real left side attacker and how nice to have him on your side of the field.. Now Zardes is finished as a left sided player and can go back where he belongs in the middle. I hope Nagbe can get this kind of instruction, but he will not get it on the USMNT. He has a lot of tools but needs some good coaching to merge his fine instincts with some instruction.

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