Preview: USA v. Ecuador
Three days after earning Jurgen Klinsmann his first win as head coach of the US national team, the Red, White and Blue will take on Ecuador in an international friendly at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on Tuesday night (7 pm ET, ESPN2/Univisión).
The US do not have an impressive record against La Tri, going 2-4-4 all time against the South Americans. Both victories, however, have come in the Yanks' last two attempts. A Landon Donovan hat trick in 2007 paced the US to a 3-1 win, while Ecuador fell 1-0 in Birmingham, Ala., in 2002 against a US team featuring a young Tim Howard, who earned his first cap and shutout on the day.
American fans and players can breathe slightly easier after breaking their winless streak under Klinsmann's watch, but the Yanks' win brought up as many questions as it answered, particularly along the backline. Michael Orozco Fiscal has started three of Klinsmann's four games at center back, but his less-than-spectacular form in a US jersey as well as his removal in favor of a newly returned Oguchi Onyewu, has raised questions about his role with the team.
Further complicating matters is defender Tim Ream. Though he has been on the camp roster for all four of Klinsmann's games with the US, the center back has yet to earn a cap for the German coach. Playing at Red Bull Arena — where Ream plays his club soccer with New York — would give Klinsmann an opportunity to reintroduce the young defender to the US lineup. Whether Orozco Fiscal, Onyewu or Ream partners with captain Carlos Bocanegra at the center of the defense remains to be seen.
Whoever gets the nod, tightening up the back line will be a top priority. The US got a shutout against Honduras this past Saturday, but it was only a monumental effort from Howard that kept los Catrachos off the board. A magical piece of skill from Clint Dempsey earned the US their first win and second goal under Klinsmann, but the Yanks may need even more firepower against an Ecuador side that is coming off a 2-0 win in World Cup qualifying against Venezuela and won three summer friendlies by a combined score of 11-2.
It's a small wonder that Ecuador have dominated their opponents of late — Reinaldo Rueda's squad brings firepower of its own in Manchester United star Antonio Valencia, Club América striker Christian Benítez and Pachuca hit man Jaime Ayoví.
After a spectacular 2010-11 season for Santos Laguna that saw him score 20 goals, Benítez has kept up his form for his country by bagging four goals in his last three games. Ayoví, meanwhile, has scored three over that same time frame.
Valencia, who missed a chunk of last season with an ankle injury, has finally made his return for the Red Devils, playing in three Premier League games and starting one. With Timmy Chandler still finding his legs with the Yanks, look for Valencia to try and exploit the right side of the field for Ecuador.