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Ecuador spoils Donovan’s USMNT swan song with late equalizer

Landon Donovan USMNT 99

Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports


EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Ecuador sure knows how to spoil a party.

The U.S. Men’s National Team was on the brink of sending Landon Donovan into international retirement with a win, but a late goal from Enner Valencia saw Ecuador grab a 1-1 draw at Rentschler Field on Friday night.

Valencia struck from distance in the 88th minute, beating Brad Guzan with a shot that snuck inside the near post and negating Mix Diskerud’s fourth-minute opener in the Americans’ first home match since the World Cup.

“I think we saw a really entertaining game,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “It was a nice game between both sides. I think we controlled the first 60 minutes and did really, really well over those 60 minutes. We should’ve scored the second goal, simple as that, to close it down.”

Donovan almost had a goal of his own in his 157th and final appearance for the U.S., but he was respectively denied on separate occasions by Ecuador goalkeeper Maximo Banguera and the post.

An early exit for Donovan was preordained. He played 41 minutes before being subbed off to a standing ovation and sharing a brief exchange of words with Klinsmann.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” said Donovan. “I’m not overly comfortable with that kind of attention on me, and so it was a battle with myself to just try to enjoy it and allow it and appreciate it, while balancing still trying to play a game.”

A negative development for the U.S. came early in the first half, as left midfielder Joe Gyau sustained a knee injury and had to be replaced in the 22nd minute by forward Bobby Wood.

“It was a bummer to lose Joe Gyau with a potential knee issue,” said Klinsmann. “We will figure that out with the medical staff by tomorrow morning. We hope it’s not so bad.”

While Gyau’s early exit put a slight damper on the match, the atmosphere remained electric. The festivities to honor the 32-year-old Donovan began before kickoff, and the raucous crowd of 36,256 were celebrating a goal not long after unfurling a tifo commemorating the veteran’s legendary career.

Donovan, who served as captain until coming off, helped create the sequence by hitting a cross from the left. It ultimately ended with DeAndre Yedlin passing to Mix Diskerud at the top of the box, and Diskerud proceeding to tuck a shot to the low right corner.

“It was always going to be an exciting start just because of Landon being on the field and what the game meant to him and us as a team and organization,” said Guzan. “It was always going to be a high, high energy start to the game and, luckily, we were able to get a goal from it.”

Donovan then had his pair of chances to add to the Americans lead, but could not capitalize on a header in the ninth minute and was cruelly denied by the post in the 25th.

Ecuador could have pulled level not long after when Renato Ibarra took advantage of a bad play by Timmy Chandler and raced in on goal. Guzan, however, made himself big and stopped the shot.

The U.S. had other opportunities to score again, but Altidore and Wood failed to convert on their looks.

Altidore sent a skipping shot wide of the far post in the 17th minute after pulling off a nice turn near the top of the penalty area, and Wood failed to volley a DeAndre Yedlin cross on frame in the 66th minute.

“We had our chances to win the game,” said centerback Omar Gonzalez, who entered the match in the second half. “We just weren’t sharp enough, and if we do finish a couple of them, we win the game easily.”

As the game wore on and Klinsmann made more substitutions, the Ecuadorians began finding a rhythm. They threatened to find an equalizer, but some scrambling defending relieved the pressure.

The U.S. ultimately paid for its inability to find an insurance goal. Valencia lined up a shot from outside the penalty area that soared into the net with two minutes remaining, ensuring that Donovan’s special night would not end with a victory.

“I couldn’t see it come off his foot,” said Guzan. “It came over the top of Tim Ream. As soon as it came over, it was just constantly leaving me. I took a step to my right, nine times out of 10 that either gets blocked or you probably make a save but unfortunately tonight it wasn’t to be.”


What do you think of the U.S.’s 1-1 draw with Ecuador? How did Donovan do in his final international outing? Which Americans were you impressed/disappointed by?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Just got back from the stadium…
    – Great send-off from the crowd, especially the Outlaws. Loud and proud.
    – The linkage Donovan provided was evident. The offensive cohesion dropped when he left the game.
    – Loved seeing lots of new players. It’s time to find new talent. Some made a good impression.
    – Of the new players, Wood impressed me most. Good skills, hustled, string effort. Did make a few errors, expected of a newbie.
    – Garza also performed well. He’ll get more callups.
    – wasn’t too impressed with Corona. He’s played better.
    – Mixx and Bedoya linked well in the middle. That synergy dropped when Morales replaced Bedoya.

    • I can’t believe some of the comments I’m seeing on here. People seem strangely…blind, to what they’re seeing.

      Jurgen is converting us – slowly, and in painful increments, and against our own tendencies – into a true offensive-minded 4-3-3 team. And they dominated a very strong Ecuador team for about 60 minutes with a mix of B, C, and D players. That was not our best team out there tonight, or even close…but they looked like a much stronger version of Sporting KC for the first hour of the game.

      The team has technical quality, and speed…and belief, belief, and more belief. As Jurgen develops even more pieces it’s going to be an absolute muthah to play against. Through most of the first half Ecuador was totally on their heels and pressed into emergency defending as the US generated chance after chance. Folks, I’ve been following this team since 1990. We have NEVER looked like that…especially in the cooldown/warmup games immediately after a World Cup, when we usually look particularly woeful. People have obviously forgotten 2011 already…by the 2011 Gold Cup, the USMNT looked as stale and un-talented as it had looked since probably 1998.

      You can see what Jurgen wants, and we’re getting there. A powerful hold-up striker, flanked by two forwards with pace who can drive, dribble, create, and stress defenses. Athletic, pacey wingbacks who can get up into the attack and cause havoc. And a trio of two-way center midfielders who can distribute, connect, and create going forwards, and harry and harass going backwards.

      On that note, here’s what we got, already….

      1. Target Man – Anybody who thinks Jozy didn’t look very good doing this role is insane. He held the ball up well, showed very good first touch for the most part, was intelligent with his runs, and connected exceptionally well with his teammates and created three clear chances that should have led to goals. Would you like to see him be more selfish at times? Sure. But with Jozy that’s always a function of confidence and Sunderland is doing their best to destroy his right now…when he gets to a better situation – or spends an extended camp with the USMNT again – his confidence and scoring touch will return. It always does. Jozy’s gotten predictable in this regard. Also agree we’ll see Bobby Wood here more, and I think Gyasi Zardes will start getting looks, and soon. Agudelo and Boyd also remain in the picture.

      2. Outside forwards – We’ve never used these before but there’s a wave of them coming in. Aron Johanssen probably fits here, but for the most part we’re going to see speedy guys like Joe Gyau, Julian Green, and even DeAndre Yedlin playing at these spots. I think Darlington Nagbe, if he gets his US citizenship in 2015, will play here as well.

      3. Mids – I don’t think, in Jurgen’s idea of a 4-3-3, he distinguishes much between “central” midfielders and “outside” midfielders. He wants technically proficient 2-way players here, and because he gets width from his wingbacks, they’re going to tuck in, interchange a lot, and gunk up the middle. Basically we’re going to carry a pool of probably 10-12 guys who for the most part play center mid for their clubs teams, and the top six will go to Russia. We saw Diskeruud, Bedoya, Corona, and Morales last night. Michael Bradley will obviously factor. Zusi will factor. After that, start looking for guys who play CM and touch the ball the most for their club teams because we’re going to see three of them on the field at any given time, lined up in no particular position. Expect Lee Nguyen to get a look and soon. I don’t know what Jurgen’s beef with Benny Feilhaber is but the new, 2-way iteration of Benny F that’s been playing with Sporting KC the last few months is perfect for this system. But pretty much expect to see three CM’s here, all the time, going forwards. He seems to like Mix and Corona – I do too – but I also think they’re going to have to do a better job with conditioning and being much better at tracking back if they want to see the plane for Russia, too.

      4. Wingbacks – And all of a sudden there’s an odd wealth of riches here. Greg Garza looked great at LB and looks like an answer. Run DMB is probably good for the next year or two…it wouldn’t shock me if he captains the 2016 Olympic team. And Robbie Rodgers is going to be hearing the phone ring soon as well, bet on it. On the right side Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, and Yedlin – if he doesn’t stick at right forward – all look like long-term answers.

      5. CB – John Brooks looks better every time I see him play for the USA. Gonzalez is very solid, Cameron’s very solid. I really like Tim Ream the distributor but his odd lapses and lack of speed concern me some. Klinsmann probably wishes Orozco-Fiscal was even three inches taller. Another guy who might be too good to keep out is Andrew Farrell. Remember what a dumpster fire our CB pool looked like in 2011? Seems a long way off now….

  2. Just some thoughts:
    1. Wood looked to be just slightly off tonight but I think once he gets acclimated to the Nats a bit more he might shine. Seemed like nerves and speed of the game got the better of him tonight.
    2. I’m guessing Guzan had his view obstructed on the goal. If he sees that shot being hit with the outside of the foot and picks up the spin I think he makes that save.
    3. Bedoya is not a center mid. Not sure why Jurgen insists on trying him there. He’s been consistently solid on the flank and the pool of central mids is fairly deep.
    4. It was interesting to see us playing with no true defensive mids. Thought the team played pretty cohesive through the first and early part of the second halfs. Good to see for such a young group. Kind of ironic how Landon seemed to be the glue that held the flow together. The creativity that has been a focal point for Klinsman definitely appeared in bits a pieces tonight. Jozy was a big part of that. If he can just somehow regain that strikers mentality.

    • 3. Bedoya is not a center mid. Not sure why Jurgen insists on trying him there. He’s been consistently solid on the flank and the pool of central mids is fairly deep

      Bedoya has played centrally for most of his club career. He was converted to the wing by BB to sub for LD.

  3. I’ve finally decided to stop being a Jozy fan. It’s too painful. It’s not that he’s bad, on the contrary, I think he connects and links with teammates well, and his physical presence remains a huge advantage. His first touch is often good.

    It’s just that he can’t or won’t take people 1 v 1, is mediocre at moving in space in the final third that could lead to chances , and shows a significant block in asserting himself to take chances. He’s strangely dependent or passive as a striker. There’s something in his body language or positioning that is just a little off and causes him to look smaller and less appealing as a target during attacks.

    It could be that he finds his teammates to be constantly disappointing because they don’t have the same understanding of how to pass as he does. His actual position that best fits his personality is attacking mid, similar to Yaya Toure, he has a killer through ball and exceptional understanding and execution of setting up attacks with accurate longer passes, but he doesn’t possess notable endurance, so I’m pessimistic he could perform the role for more than a few minutes without gassing.

    Too bad, it really feels like he could have turned out differently, but he is what he is. He needs to go down a league or two to save his career, he’s regressed significantly as Sunderland.

    • I’ve thought for awhile now Jozy would better in that Dempsey role underneath the striker. He combines quickly and creates well. If he had striker above him pressing the line and pulling defenders he’d find even more space to that as well.

    • “It’s just that he can’t or won’t take people 1 v 1, is mediocre at moving in space in the final third that could lead to chances , and shows a significant block in asserting himself to take chances”

      That describes Donovan

  4. No more wondo. They should have let other players play. How are they supposed to get experience. Wondo is too old to compete for the next cycle.

    I liked the yeldin/Chandler pairing.

    Not enough true passing. Too forced overall for everyone.

    Was cheering for Landon. Thank you for all you did.

    • Wondo could play an important role in the Gold Cup next year which will play into whether or not the US goes to the Confed cup in 2017.

      • I like Wondo and I’m glad he got to wear the armband. However its time to figure out who is ready to really take the next step between AJ 23, Boyd 23, Zardes 23 or maybe Wood 21 or Wooten 25.

  5. I can’t say I like the mobile version. I can’t reply to people..

    I thought it was a good performance from our midfield. If Wood, Corona or Donovan could hit the target better we’d have been up by at least three.

    Our strikers are just woeful. Jozy must become more selfish again. The diving and wasteful passes instead of shots are miserable. Boyd and Aron can’t get healthy fast enough. And Agudelo please find a team soon! We need goal scorers!!

    1. Mix. May we never bench him again.
    2. Wood
    3. Garza

    1. Jozy
    2. Wondo (no more Klinsi, we surrender!)
    3. Corona

      • Wood did create that one nice chance where he played it across the front of goal to Yedlin I think. Other then that, not much to point out.

    • I hope Wood never misses a chance like that again. I’ll give him a pass because he’s new to the national team but not anymore. That should have been buried

      • I noticed Wood was uncomfortable with his final touch, whether it be a should-have pass or a should-have shot. When he dribbled to the inside from the left wing, his hesitation and lack of vision, really makes him unlikely. Perhaps ihe can learn, but with club not country. And hey, sounds like I’m talking about, what’s his name? Oh yeah, Brek Shea. You just never know. . . . here’s hoping Bobby Wood can learn some football chops and prove us wrong.

    • Don’t know what game you watched. Wood was pretty bad, more then willing to give a pass for due to nerves, but he definitely did not play well.

      And Jozy played fine. Nothing short of a AMAZING performance seems please people when it comes to him

  6. We need a finisher. I don’t know if that’s Boyd doing it with brute force, AJ with a calm touch or Zardes with a little bit of both. We had the chances but just couldn’t get it across the line.

  7. Thoughts on players.
    Guzan made some nice stops not sure what happened with the goal though
    Chandler seems more comfortable on the right
    Orozco and Brooks were ok I think the switching of centerbacks is what really threw us off
    Garza Impressed me should get more looks
    Gyau didn’t last long enough when I heard wood was coming in I groaned never was a fan of his
    Bedoya He’s ok but I still think he’s best when playing on the right side of midfield
    Corona continues to have quiet games
    Morales I actually lost track of him so I’m not sure
    altidore made a few legit plays nothing unexpected
    Donovan I thought he looked pretty good in the short time he was on
    Yedlin Decent seems to be alright at right mid would like to see more
    Wondolowski Didnt do anything of note

      • Because JK didn’t do what Chico wanted him to do.
        Started Jozy instead of the US’s only World Class striker….. Wondo.
        Didn’t call in Frankie Hay-Dude, McBride, O’Brien, Reyna, Gooch, Boca, or Dolo. Instead had the gall to use mostly young inexperienced players and duel nationals.

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