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Darlington Nagbe’s late winner lifts USMNT over Ecuador

<>during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.

Darlington Nagbe wasn’t in the starting lineup on Wednesday night for the U.S. Men’s National Team, but he made the most of the 45 minutes he was given, delivering the winning play in the final minute of regulation.

Nagbe netted the game-winning goal in the game’s waning moments, leading the USMNT to a 1-0 victory over Ecuador on Wednesday night in Frisco, Texas. The win is the USMNT’s second in as many pre-Copa America friendlies following Sunday’s 3-1 toppling of Puerto Rico.

The defining moment came in the 90th minute, when DeAndre Yedlin dribbled into the penalty area and floated a dangerous cross headed into the air by Ecuador. The loose ball fell to Bobby Wood, who headed it to a wide-open Nagbe, who calmly chested the ball and volleyed from close range for his first national team goal.

Throughout the second half, the USMNT proved the more dangerous side and created several chances against the previously-stout Ecuador defense.

Starting in the 60th minute with a Michael Bradley rocket over the bar, the U.S. continued to create as substitutes entered the game. Christian Pulisic and Wood in particular proved dynamic, nearly combining for a goal in the 75th minute. Fellow substitute Nagbe pulled the strings in the middle, playing several key passes while helping the USMNT maintain possession that was sorely lacking in the first half.

The game’s first half was a tepid one, as neither side mustered a shot in the opening 45 minutes. Although Ecuador proved the more active team in terms of possession, the U.S. likely got the best look as Clint Dempsey sprung in Gyasi Zardes before a mistouch extinguished the attack.

Ecuador proved most dangerous down the left as Jefferson Montero repeatedly tested DeAndre Yedlin, who was coming off a strong performance against Puerto Rico. The USMNT fullback stood tall each time, limiting Ecuador to few chances inside the final third.

A more resolute second-half performance followed for the USMNT, culminating in Nagbe’s winner in the game’s dying moments.

The USMNT returns to action on Saturday against Bolivia in the team’s third and final Pre-Copa America friendly before opening the tournament against Colombia on June 3.


  1. Observations:

    1. Several comments have been critical of JK’s lineup since the subs were so much more effective. This is a very common practice in coaching. You stick with the guys who have “bled for the shield,” and give the new guys increasing opportunities as they earn them. You don’t replace one of the old guys until it is obvious even to them that the new guys are better. I think last night was probably that moment, at least for Nagbe. As much as I love Beckerman, it became obvious last night that it’s time to push Bradley back and let Nagbe take his place. Beckerman will still get some situational playing time, but I think his time is probably over after the Copa.

    2. I doubt it will happen, but I would really like to see FJ at left forward the whole game, and see if Chandler can avoid screwing it up too badly at left back. I’m not sure FJ is so much better than Chandler as a defender that it makes up for what we lose not having him in the attack.

    3. I like the 4-3-3. It felt so much more solid than the diamond defensively. The problem with the formation in the past was that we were trying to play it with guys who didn’t play it. Nagbe and Pulisic play it regularly and Wood is used to being a lone striker. Zusi has had a lot of experience in the formation as well (not that he had a great game). The formation requires different movement and passing angles are different than with a 4-4-2, so I think it definitely helps to have guys who have played it.

    4. I just don’t see where Dempsey fits on this team. He is not a center forward, and doesn’t have the speed to play wide any more. Wood’s movement in the middle is so much better. I’ve long been convinced that one of the main reasons we’ve stayed with the 4-4-2 was to accommodate Deuce. I wonder how much longer we’ll see it.

    5. Can’t wait to see a Brooks/Cameron pairing. I thought Brooks and Birnbaum were solid, but Cameron is better than Birnbaum right now.

    6. I think JK went with the lineup he did last night because he wanted to be the first manager ever to start two guys with the initials GZ. Count on both of them remaining in the pool so he can be the first manager to start three guys with the initials GZ once Gedion Zelalem makes the team.

    • My bad, I forgot that Zardes and Zusi started the Guatemala game. Can’t wait for three GZ’s in one game, though, that will be epic!

    • 4. I just don’t see where Dempsey fits on this team. He is not a center forward, and doesn’t have the speed to play wide any more. Wood’s movement in the middle is so much better. I’ve long been convinced that one of the main reasons we’ve stayed with the 4-4-2 was to accommodate Deuce. I wonder how much longer we’ll see it.

      I think this is a great talking point, too. I’m also not sure where Dempsey fits in with new players coming on or coming into their own.

    • to my mind, the two biggest puzzles with our team right now are (a) why can’t bradley/jones work together, and (b) what do we do with dempsey.

      everybody kind of acknowledges the first one (cause it’s pretty obvious), but i think dempsey will be more difficult to sort out. with his talent (relative to the rest of our team), one is tempted to build the team around him, just like klinsmann did when he was hired. but he really doesn’t fit nicely into any one position on the field anymore, he tends to slow down the play when most of our top players like to play fast, and i don’t think he’d take too well to a substitute role.

      this seems kind of silly to talk about when he’s still one of the best players we have, and pretty much our only really consistent scoring threat. but he’s definitely lost a step in the past year or so, and if he can’t lead the team at the next world cup, now’s the time to try and phase him out.

      (disclaimer: it’s never–NEVER–wise to count dempsey out.)

      • Bradley/Jones combo doesn’t work for the same reasons Lampard/Gerrard never worked; they are just too similar in the type of players they are: #8’s. pure box-to-box players that like to drop and win the ball back quickly, as well as join the attack.

        And as to Dempsey best role, I might be in the minority, and the sample size is small and against an overwhelmed Guatemalan side, but I really liked him as a false-9. He was more involved in possession and the build-up (something I thought was very good and valuable to the USMNT when he played the #10 role in our great run in 12-13; and has been missing since then when we’ve been trying to run the diamond). He is still one of the best dribblers we have (certainly the most gutsy, although Pulisic will be giving him a run for his money) and can force defenders out of position, opening space for other attackers, especially a cut inside by wingers (which is exactly what happened in that Zardes play, before he decided to do his best impersonation of a brick wall).

        IMO, any time you can maximize Dempsey’s time with/on the ball is a good thing. If we thought Nagbe and Bradley looked good combining through the midfield, imagine throwing Dempsey and his “try sh&t” attitude into the mix; I could see him and Nagbe, with Bradley supporting, slicing open defenses at Copa (not a hyperbole). Plus dropping him deeper may get him to actually press.

        The only issues I see with this is: 1. Will he be able to handle a more physically demanding role (I doubt it)? 2. Will he accept a role that pulls him away from prime goal-scoring opportunities (i.e. How much does he want to break the goal-scoring record)? My guess is no, I think he wants that record a lot.

      • “they are just too similar in the type of players they are: #8’s. pure box-to-box players that like to drop and win the ball back quickly, as well as join the attack.”

        i agree that that’s the primary issue, but, as we saw in the ecuador game (and many other games), bradley can play a #6 well. and in theory, you should be able to play two #8s as a double pivot, provided they’re both disciplined and organized — but they’re not, and i tend to blame that more on jones: wherever bradley’s played, he doesn’t lack positional discipline–although his performance has still suffered at times, especially when played too far up the field. whereas jones consistently roams–usually to good result, but it’s hard to count on him to be in a certain place at a given time.

        and agreed on everything about dempsey. i’d love to see him in the false 9 for a bit, but that role really depends on the strength of the wingers. considering that’s been one of our weak points recently–especially if fabian has to play fullback–it could spectacularly backfire, without it being dempsey’s fault at all.

        and yeah, i don’t see dempsey being happy with a deeper role at this point. (i also think that klinsmann wants dempsey to get the goalscoring record, for reasons i won’t go into here. 🙂 )

    • Dempsey is still the best pure goal scorer we have. In fact, I would argue that he is the best pure goal scorer we have ever had. But, he may be reaching the point where he can’t go 90 every game when you are in a tournament with games every 3 or 4 days. He is still pretty important if we want to win a game, so maybe you play him 70 minutes or so and maybe give him a rest after the second or third game. By the time of Russia you use him as a late sub when you need a goal.. For now, you should be starting him most of the time.

    • All the European teams with Nike have similar ones for this Summer too. England’s home shirt is almost the same as ours just with a navy stripe instead of red. At least their away kit they only went with one color on the sleeves instead of two tone. France’s home jersey has the two tone on white instead of black, which looks only marginally better.

  2. FWIW
    1. Guzan kept us in the game in the first half. He doesn’t have the flash of TH but he makes a lot of goal saving plays that go unnoticed
    2. Whether you want him on the field or not, MB plays best when he has other guys around him who are on the same page. JJ is a passionate son of a B and there is a use for him on this team but he does not, never did or never will fit well with MB. It baffles me to no end that over the past 2 years this coaching staff has not seen this.
    3. Darlington and Pulisic changed the game. When we have guys who can combine it changes everything. The formation is not as important when you have guys who can combine passes. It keeps the defense organized and defenders are in good starting positions.
    4. I have Twellman using the term “between the lines 5 times”. Anyone have a different count? lol

    • JK was forced to go with JJ and MB because we didn’t have an adequate playmaker. MB had to try and fill that role. Last night was a break out game for Nagbe. I don’t think he really distinguished himself internationally until last night. He completely changes the equation, allowing MB back to his #6 role he does better in, and likely turning JJ into a sub.

  3. Birnbaum is the answer. He will only get better as he gets more international experience. He will be the starter at World Cup.

    • He looked pretty shaky to me the first 15 to 20 minutes. When I saw him play in MLS a week or two ago he didn’t look all that great, having to take a yellow when he was badly beaten on a counter attack and pulled the attacker down. I think he has a ways to go to equal Cameron or Besler or maybe even Omar G. I think he has the potential, but really needs more top flight experience.

  4. After having a chance to watch the match on DVR, I was pretty underwhelmed with our attack, but we had some bright spots with our subs that hopefully get more time going forward.

    Yedlin certainly shows some great flashes of improvement, but I wasn’t comfortable with how many times he was caught on the counter attack and left our back line exposed with Brooks and Birnbaum to pick up the pieces. I can only imagine how clumsy our defense would have looked if we left the encumbered Gonzalez back there to defend against the elite talent of Jefferson Montero.

    On a positive note, our back line played incredibly well led by Brooks having a monster game and Birnbaum confirming to be a reliable and steady option behind Cameron (unlike the error-prone Gonzalez).

    I think we accomplished what we needed to in this friendly: find some options, create some discussion for others to play and managed to come out with a victory. That should be the objective in the Copa, too. Winning some matches would be nice but since they’re glorified friendlies I’d rather see us utilize young talent over the old guard.

    • I think we need to remember that with both the attack and the fullbacks this is only the 2nd game we played the 4-3-3 and I don’t believe too many of the guys play it for their clubs either. Both areas should get better if we continue to feature it.

    • I think there was a change of tactic at halftime and Yedlin was told to stop going forward. I don’t remember him going forward at all in the second half and his play that led up to the goal came after he had been moved up to wing (which hasn’t been discussed at all and is another example of a good tactical move by JK). I think that was one of the reasons the defense was so solid in the second half. I agree with your assessment of Brooks and Birnbaum and I’m really looking forward to seeing Brooks and Cameron, it could be the first lights out center back duo we’ve had in a long time.

      • When Bradley was moved to DM the ball flowed through Nagbe which allowed Johnson to get forward. Jones was more aggressive than Bradley in the first half so the right side was more open for Yedlin to get forward as defenders pinched in to stop JJ. Or maybe the coaches just said quit bringing it up the right all the time.

      • It looked to me like we completely switched our style of play from attempted quick counter attack in the first half which had Yedlin racing up the wing right away, to a slow buildup, stringing together a lot of passes. Yedlin still went forward, but only after we had carefully brought the ball into their third and pinned their players back. That made it a lot easier for Yedlin to track back, as well as not giving the ball over to Ecuador while Yedlin was still way up the field.

      • Gary, I agree with you to some extent, but I think we would’ve played more patient possession in the first half if we could’ve. The introduction of Nagbe and Wood was a huge change that made it possible. Those guys were comfortable on the ball and made it so Ecuador couldn’t press so much. With Pulisic and Bedoya in the game we were finally able to have enough ball players that pressing was no longer an effective strategy. I still think after the play where Yedlin gave the ball away just outside the eighteen and gave them a great counter opportunity, along with how dangerous Montero was, that JK decided we needed to dial back Yedlin’s runs or we were going to give up a goal.

  5. Some observations:

    1. Bradley > Beckerman as the #6.
    2. Nagbe = Bradley as the #10 so might as well move Bradley back.
    3. Wood > Zardes anywhere on the field.
    4. Still not convinced FJohnson is best utilized as a defender. He was invisible most of the game.
    5. Birnbaum was ok but I think I prefer Cameron at RCB.
    6. Pulisic could start but I’m ok with him being a super sub (for now, but that could change with a good performance against Bolivia)

    • 1. Yes
      2. Nagbe is a much better #10
      3. Yes
      4. With the new formation not sure you want him up as a forward or more central in the midfield so I say yes to LB is best, but we need to work on our coverage when he or Yedlin go forward.
      5. Yes
      6. Sure ok.

      • I would absolutely go with FJ as a wide forward. I saw a game a few months back with Monchengladbach where he played left wing in a 4-3-3 and he was tearing it up. I’d love to see what happens to our attack with him on one wing and Pulisic on the other.

      • But when we leave all that space in behind do you want FJ chasing back or Timmy Chandler? I like your if we need a goal idea, like we did last night with Orozco pushing Yedlin up.

      • I think with truly dangerous wide attackers, the fullbacks would need to press forward so much and we wouldn’t leave so much space in behind. In any case, Chandler is faster than Johnson.

    • agreed on all.
      may I add:
      7. amazed at how much better Yedlin is after a year in the EPL. if he plays like he did last night all tournament we might have one of the best RB’s in the Copa. Jefferson Montero was a great test, every game going forward is going to be another world class winger targeting him. high hopes for him in the next month.

      • I hate how people say after a year in the EPL.
        He would have been better after a year in Seattle too. He was improving by leaps and bounds.

        A year is still a huge portion of his pro career.

      • From right to left, with Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks and FJ, we have a back line that can measure up with practically anyone, IMHO. They just need more time as a unit as the individual talent is there.

    • i don’t think klinsmann wants fabian as a defender, either. the problem is that we don’t really have another left back nearly as good as him, and if the addition of pulisic means we have at least one good attacking winger, it’s probably worth it to keep fabian back.

      • No. Not exactly, but I think you are smart enough to get the point I was making. Nagbe and Bradley are about equal in terms of creating offense, possessing the ball in the offensive half, and effectively playing in passes to the forwards. If they are equal and Bradley is better than Beckerman as a #6 then move him back and start Nagbe.

      • “I think you are smart enough to get the point I was making.”

        nope, you’re giving me too much credit — just thought i missed something. 🙂

        i agree that, if yesterday’s game is any proof, bradley should move back to allow nagbe onto the field. although i could also see them as the double-pivot if we want to go more offensive against weaker teams.

    • One thing a defender who does well is not standout. He simply manages to play smart and seldom gets into spots where he has to perform some great play. If no one remembers you doing much as a defender except making a few tidy passes and maybe getting into the attack a few times, you had a very good game. Johnson did that last night.

      Of course if you mean he is the best attacking wide midfielder the US has and we need to use someone as LB, well sure, but just who do you think could play there and be as forgetable (in the good sense) as FJ was last night?

      • FJ was absolutely FINE as a defender but as a team that generally struggled offensively, I’m more partial to having one of our best attacking players play in a position where he is primarily attacking.

  6. Nagbe has jumped far ahead of Gyasi “Chance Killer” Zardes on the depth chart. He looked comfortable and confident, while Zardes, predictably, butchered the only good US chance of the first half.

    Wood’s combination of speed, strength, and control should have Altidore mighty worried.

    Zusi appeared to be out of sorts, while Bedoya showed some good flashes (but probably should have scored).

    Pulisic in the midfield *almost* makes me OK with the idea of FJ at LB.

    • Nagbe has jumped far ahead of Gyasi “Chance Killer” Zardes on the depth chart. He looked comfortable and confident, while Zardes, predictably, butchered the only good US chance of the first half.

      Not that I disagree with Zardes being off the pitch, but if we play Nagbe at his preferred position (where he was the biggest threat last night) then these two play different positions.

      • I agree Old School, I’ve seen this several times here and on other boards, Gyasi and Nagbe do not play the same position and shouldn’t. Pulisic for Gyasi sure, but you couldn’t make the Darlington for Zardes switch without changing formation.

      • Point taken, Old and Johnny — it is not a like-for-like exchange. Perhaps I should have said both Wood and Pulisic are preferable to Zardes, depending on what position he would play.

    • I’d love to see FJ and Pulisic at wing at the same time. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Chandler at left back as a sub if we need a goal with FJ moving up to left wing and Pulisic on the right. If we get a result vs. Colombia it wouldn’t even surprise me to see those guys in the starting lineup.

      • I was thinking the same thing. It would be nice if we could put FJ in the midfield. I hope that Klinsmann plays Chandler on Saturday at LB so we can see if he can hold down that position, freeing up FJ to play elsewhere.

    • I felt like Pulisic and Wood displaced Zardes, not Nagbe. Nagbe is probably after a central mid job like Beckermann’s.

      Zardes’ speed makes him useful off the bench. You need that tactical element.

    • Morris chose the comfort of being near family (his own words) over the competition of fighting for a place overseas. He even cited Landon Donovan as being a big inspiration and referenced him playing most of his career in MLS while becoming the best U.S. player in history.

      Don’t get me wrong – I like MLS having more up and coming Americans (especially young ones) playing in the league. However, I’d love to see Morris plying his trade against better competition like Pulisic. Unfortunately, if they (Morris and others) lack the mentality to do so then they’d be better served near family, I suppose.

      • I’ll reply to you and Johnny…I agree with you both. But I will say that a killer instinct and competitive mentality is what the US needs. We need more technically gifted players in this side. Klinsmann’s preferred style of play is a square peg and a round hole with what he has to work with. Work rate only counts so much if you’re not scoring goals and blowing chances (Zardes.)

    • A lot more factors than that though to be fair. Pulisic was already a much more technical player than Morris when he went to Dortmund just 16 months ago. Pulisic’s dad was also an indoor soccer pro and manager so he’s had some good coaching from a very young age. Maybe more proof that guys like Haji Wright and Josh Perez are making the right decision to go the Euro youth route than MLS Academies.

    • Different types, apples to oranges. You could send Morris to Germany and he’d still be a bigger bruiser who likes to run. Pulisic would always be the technical skinny kid. All that happens in Germany to Morris is maybe he becomes a more well rounded, refined, version of what he is. Like Wood perhaps.

      There is no Pulisic Xerox.

      • I was thinking more of the quality of opposition he’ll find in Germany, France, Spain, Holland, even the Championship in England. No one can say how he’ll develop, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

      • I think its more a case for Europe over Stanford, but if Morris was in Europe he would be pushed more than he is at Seattle for playing time depending on where he would have gone.

      • To me Holland and English second division are below MLS. Those are not more difficult. They simply pay better. That’s why Ream can go there and function (and be paid well for it).

        I agree the other leagues are more difficult. But who knows if he plays. There is always that risk, that kneecaps many a promising career.

        Morris is early in his career and didn’t immediately take off in MLS, so I think it’s a sufficient level to test him and work on his game. If he really takes off maybe he tries a move.

      • I’m not going to cast stones and make idiotic grandiose statements. I’ll concede that the Dutch league is maybe at the same level with the MLS, with the traditional exceptions, but the I think the Championship is superior in terms of style of play and competitiveness. Just curious as to why you rank MLS above both?

      • Why do I rate MLS over Holland? Because Jozy can score 30 there. If you have ever watched a team like AZ play (at least a couple years ago), there is a fair amount of skill but very little defensive team concept. Fast break soccer.

        Holland also develops good players but does not accumulate them in the domestic league. Typically someone excels and then heads off to Spain, England, Germany. So while Holland has a strong NT the league itself is second tier, a selling league. Ajax as the model, great system but in part designed to make them then sell them.

        Holland had 1 team in the round of 16 UEFACL this year. Last time before that that a team advanced to the knockout round was 06-07.

        I think the best funded and competitive teams in MLS are bottom EPL level. I think the worst MLS teams are Championship or below. That averages out, to me, to Championship. The one thing I think many teams would struggle with is 46 games a year plus cup games, which would test our short rosters.

      • Well said. Your point about Holland, and Jozy, makes sense. I would add that the Netherlands didn’t qualify for the Euros this year.

    • I’m beginning to wonder if it’s only a coincidence that Morris hasn’t had a look since he turned down Bremen.

    • Ironyank is completely wrong.

      All it shows is that Pulisic can play the wing and Morris can not ( or not as well anyway ). We will see in the future as Sigi keeps playing a formation that puts him there.

      Not some big slam on MLS. Or crazy idea that if he had gone to Europe for the last 4 months he would be playing the wing as good as Pulisic. Crazy ideas.

      I would have brought Morris as another forward. JK didn’t. Dempsey will do well if JK gets his midfield right in my opinion. Morris will be fine.

      • I would respond with this: Morris starts as a forward. Taking a shot against Nick Rimando or Steve Clarke is worlds of difference to trying your luck against Manuel Neuer.

    • He’s young, it’s his first year as a pro. If he does well in MLS, in a couple of years he should get an opportunity to move to Europe if he wants to. I hope he gets that opportunity and takes it, but for his first year as a pro MLS is probably the right fit compared to sitting on the bench in Europe.

    • Well….. while going to Germany could well have been better for his soccer career development, the fork in the road to being a 17 year old phenom wasn’t choosing MLS at 21. I don’t believe he had the passport to be in European youth development, so his opportunities were different than CP’s and a w/ the energy that goes into a Stanford education and the level of the game was always going to delay/stifle his professional soccer career. We can lament that he didn’t fulfill our needs as fans and only speculate just how good he could have been had he emphasized/focused solely on this talent but still……….. Morris is in a pretty golden position in life very young…. that I’m sure we all can envy/admire?

    • Bigger issue with Morris is that he wasted three years of prime development time playing NCAA ball. A total waste. We are moving away from college soccer as a primary method of development (can’t happen soon enough), adding MLS reserve teams in USL etc., so hopefully this will be less of an issue going forward. Can say the same thing about Yedlin. He improved a lot this year but maybe he’d be challenging for the RB spot at Spurs this season if he hadn’t spent two years playing at a super low level.

      • Not a total waste. It is true that the NCAA limits the season and number of games and that does not let a player improve in soccer as fast as if he were playing nearly year-round. But and this is a big BUT, no pne can identify which players will succeed as professional players when the players are 17 or so (barring a few very exceptional talents). It makes perfect sense for young men to balance the chance of playing professional soccer with the opportunity to earn a college degree. From the perspective of earning a living, betting you will be a successful professional soccer player is kind of like playing the lottery as you retirement plan.

        The NCAA could and should, IMHO, extend the season and the number of games. If it allowed a spring season and/or did not limit PDL participation during the spring/summer it would be a big benefit to those hoping to play professionally. It would do so without essentially forcing them to abandon higher education (or delaying it beyond the time that only a few actually would return to school) and with that, effectively lower their future (non-soccer) income.

  7. I dont know why we argue over who should start. There are three games in eleven days and every team poses a different threat. Under those conditions there never really is a true XI. If i had to guess a starting lineup vs Columbia, My guess is that Bradley goes to where beckerman was and nagbe slides in where bradley started. I also bet that wood and bodoya will replace zardes and zuzi and camerone emerges for birnbaum. Same kind of formation with different players. Now that Yedlin is playing safe and back a little i imagine the formation to be:



    jones nagbe


    bedoya wood

  8. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned that deserves mention is the US toughness. More times than I can remember in any one game in the past, we fought hard, shoving their players off the ball with good shoulder to shoulder challenges. Too often we see other teams manhandle us. Tonight it was reversed. It was especially good to see the youngster Pulisic as tough as anyone on the field as he fought for the ball. Perhaps Klinsmann’s call for the US to be more nasty is finally getting through.

    • “It was especially good to see the youngster Pulisic as tough as anyone on the field as he fought for the ball.”

      forget the goal–that was my favorite part of the game. 🙂

  9. I love MB at the dmid spot. I have been wondering when it would finally happen. I hope he stays there. I do wish he would put a shot of frame(seems like everyone these days is just over the bar) but I thought the Nagbe, JJ, MB triangle looked good. I also loved the many times the USMNT strung together numerous passes, and worked both sides of the field. Good stuff. I have been ready to write of JK, but then we play like this… Who knows what to think. But I am happy

    • Beckerman has to come off the bench or just not play. He was like a traffic cone on every Ecuador break, continues to only pass backwards and was intercepted constantly. These SA teams will be too pacey for him for the most part, however I can see him being effective in the Paraguay game.

      • Bradey needs to play that deep role from now on and let Nagbe play in the more forward spot Jurgen was trying to jam Michael into in Brazil.

      • Not really another option at the time, but its been stuck to, too long. I think Bradley really wanted to play there as well, to prove his salary with Toronto, not a lot of 6 million dollar defensive midfielders in the world.

  10. I thought the difference in the second half was we were able to switch fields better thus opening up Johnson and Yedlin to get forward into attack. The game really changed when FJ was able to work with Wood, Nagbe and Pulisic to just carve up that left side. Oddly the goal came from one of Yedlin’s few runs up the right. Praise be to the soccer gods we didn’t see the 4-4-2 diamond.

    • Right – those 4 guys worked really well together – FJ, Nagbe, Pulisic, and Wood. I was particularly impressed with Wood in those tight triangles, just because I didn’t know he had that in his game. He also looked really confident overall.

      • Dempsey looked better when he was with that group minus CP as well, he had more time and space.

    • That’s what happens when you go from 3 central mids to having some people with wing ability in the game. Hard to switch fields with a bunch of plodders in and no midfield wingers.

  11. Need to find a way to get pulisic, wood, nagbe and probably bedoya starting. Maybe for zusi, zardes, beckerman and maybe jones. Crazy that one of our best midfielders is playing left back and still have a competent squad. Second half was much better than the first.

  12. That was the same basic line up that is averaging 2 goals a game in WCQ including 2 against Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. That was a pretty good team that we beat tonight and certainly outplayed in the second half. Let’s not jump on the hype train yet, but what’s with all the hate.

    • So, and I am prefacing this with the comment that I still think we played a good game, but that 4-3-3 was out manned all over the field in the first half. I was watching and on defense, Ecuador had more guys forward than we had defending… in midfield, whether left or right side, Ecuador had a 3-2 advantage… and then on our offense, Ecuador had a 3-2 advantage whenever our guys got the ball… it resulted in easy high press and our long balls. When we brought in the extra MF, we controlled the game… I don’t think the 3 DMs get a 4-3-3… or maybe its the 3 forwards we had out there… I don’t know, but I feel like the passes were too long, or the players werent running enough. the 4-3-3 as shown won’t work against columbia.

      • It didn’t help that every time that we got the ball to the midway line in the first half we made a poor pass and turned it over. The offense seemed rushed during the whole first half and I think by having the team take its time in buildup, I suppose at the coach’s direction, they calmed down and made better passes and created chances in the second half.

      • So, see, I go back to spacing. Every time we made a bad pass, I didn’t see another black shirt nearby. The back line with beckerman was a unit, and ok, so now JJ has the ball… but Dempsey/Zerdes/Zusi depending on which sit he is on were like 20 yards upfield… or if Fabian/Yedlin were holding the ball at MF… Bradley/JJ, Dempsey and the back side FW were nowhere close. So Ecuador had 2 MF 2 DF and a FW tracking back on either side and we had 3/4 guys against that press. Now either you find the space on the far side of the field… or you overload and lose your spacing… whatever, but we weren’t doing that so we were literally out manned everywhere on the field. It was really weird to see. Like, normally, you expect that if you are outmanned in one place, then you have the advantage elsewhere… but what I saw in that first half is that in every phase, Ecuador had an extra player.

    • replied to you in the other thread, but thought i’d leave it here as well:

      i thought we played well overall, but i’d point out that we looked pretty poor in the first half, didn’t start taking over the game until both teams started making subs, and scored our only goal after ecuador’s fifth sub; so not sure i’d put too much weight behind the starting lineups.

      • I think your being a little harsh, but I watched the first half with my 4 yr old and 5 yr old so safe to say I was a little distracted. I thought the game was pretty even after the first 15 minutes, but I could be wrong. I don’t think that was our preferred starting line up, with Zusi and Zardes, but who knows.

        As far as subs go you’ll always have that in friendlies especially ones played in humid Dallas. The only sub Ecuador made in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half was the keeper who was injured and we had already changed the game with our two subs at half. The second thing is when their subs came on they should have been able to pick up the pressure with fresh legs, but we continued to outplay them. I don’t think the goal matters all that much, but maybe it will help with confidence and marketing to some extent. I am more happy about the clean sheet than the victory.

      • i’m not saying it wasn’t a deserved win (or clean sheet), although, like you, i don’t really care about the result, just didn’t think your point about the starting lineups was that strong. i would say that our 2nd half lineup was much stronger than the 1st, so maybe they would’ve been much improved against ecuador’s starters as well. but i think the real difference is that our subs were better than our starters, and theirs weren’t.

        “I don’t think that was our preferred starting line up, with Zusi and Zardes, but who knows.”

        i can only hope that’s true.

    • What stood out to me is when he lost the ball in our half and fought hard to win it back, shielded against two guys and kept possession. Nothing special but that was a clear sign that he is a for real player that is not scared and will defend. Can’t imagine starts against Colombia but would not be surprised if he does against Paraguay and/or CR.

      • If its the play I’m thinking it was against Paredes who plays for Watford (at least sometimes), so it wasn’t like it was some chump he took the ball back from either.

      • I recall that moment and I was really impressed with his strength on the ball for a kid his size. Jozy would have probably fallen to the ground and screamed for a foul. Seeing Nagbe,FJ,MB, Wood, andPulsic ping the ball around in tight spaces and maintain possession was great to see. Toe to toe with a tough S. American opponent. I hope there’s more to come. And not a reversion to bunker, counter ball.

      • That moment was a flashpoint for all of us.

        We’ll remember that moment for years because it was the moment that confirmed to our eyes Christian Pulisic has the mentality, drive and ability to play at this level…even at the age of 17.

  13. I don’t care what this says about my ability to assess, but that game leaves me excited for 2018. Yedlin, nagbe, birnbaum, Pulisic, wood, and more/less Brooks all showed some good moments (every player has bad moments in each game. It’s a sport). They all looked comfortable and more importantly showed the ability to calmly turn and play quick pass and go’s. Bradley was overall solidly decent or better. Jones just loves to play. Clint didn’t have too much goin on tonight. FJ was hit or miss with more hits,. zusi and bedoya held solid…-ish. Beckerman was beckerman. No one else to really speak about …. (Sorry Gyasinho…lol)

      • Lol, I enjoyed that you shared an opinion that didn’t poop on anyone else’s. maybe this is the start of something new between us…

      • In that case, I’m sorry, Dan.

        “I don’t care what this says about my ability to assess,”
        This was a sarcastic slight aimed at those who disagree with my superior opinions…

        …but I’d love to grab a mochafroyofrapuccinolatte sometime. I’ll meet you there…

    • The young players had a good night.

      Ball movement was much better as soon as Nagbe was inserted into the match. Pulisic touch is of international caliber and he was a handful during his 30 minutes of work. Wood looks like he is ready to challenge Altidore at the forward position.

      Yes, the 2018 squad looks promising.

      • Why is it that everyone assumes that Wood is competing….challenging Jozy for one of the striker roles? While it’s good to have multiple forward options who are able to step in for a player who is injured/out of form IMO Wood is challenging/competing with Dempsey for the 2nd striker role. He excels at playing off the shoulder of others, finding the space between the CBs & CMs and making runs in behind with his speed.
        We don’t really have an exact replacement for what Jozy brings. The physical/hold up/knock-down play that allows others to join into the attack. The closest we have in the pool for this type of play right now is Zardes. Which is why, I’m guessing, he got the start last night. Johannsson was another player who could provide some of these aspects….hopefully he’ll be able to fully recover from his nerve issues and return to playing at a high level in the fall.

      • LIS- +1. To me what excites me about Wood is the possibility of seeing a similar combo like altidore/Davies. Thunder and lighting haha.

        But yea I’m cool with Dempsey leading through the copa then having a front 3 of
        With jozy either starting for Pulisic until he’s fully ready and comfortable (he’s close) or being clints backup until he’s no longer an option to start. Thus by 2018 Pulisic, jozy and wood (19-27-25?) start with a 35 year old fan favorite back up sub in Clint. Bradley nagbe and bedoya in midfield and FJ Brooks GC Yedlin on the back line.

        That’d be two epl defenders and two bundsliga defenders. A former series a dm. Ligue 1 mid and a talented MLS mid. 2 Bundsliga wingers and a former epl/Dutch league (and European goals record holder) as striker. Not too shabby.

    • It was nice to watch but depends on whether you think JK ever plays an attacking unit in a big tournament. If not, this, like previous explosions by young attacking talent, will give way to whoever the 3 best defensive midfielders able to run are, regardless of age, skill limits, ceiling on team results, etc.

    • Disagree completely about Zusi being solid. He was anything but. Shy of one so-so cross, he did nothing. Did not create any chances, got beat consistently, had sloppy passes, his corners were awful,..A good MLSer but clearly not national team material IMHO. We are in need of a right winger.

  14. For the love of Christmas, why does Klinsmann,….why does anyone…ever need to see another Bradley, Beckerman and Jones midfield again?

    • Because Colombia, that’s why. If we put our 2h lineup out there from this match v. Colo we will either win or lose a game where a minimal risk draw is an obtainable result. This was a friendly. The next two years will be interesting but lets not get crazy. Colombia is a whole nother level on the attack than this toothless Ecuador side, that being said today’s 2h was FUN.

      • Ecuador, toothless?!
        Did you even see the first half? Don’t look now but Ecuador is tied with Uruguay in CONMEBOL WC qualifying. They’re also #12 in the latest FIFA rankings.


      • Notice I said “THIS” Ecuador attack. If we meet them in R16 they will be a different team. But we WILL meet Colo and I just don’t think we win a shootout with them. Solid and experienced D until we need a goal is the better strat.

      • That was pretty much their first team, Valencia (ManU Valencia) didn’t play because he played RB in the FA Cup over the weekend, but he’s not a goal scoring threat (hasn’t scored for Ecuador in over three years). Eight starters from their last qualifier against Colombia (according to Darke I didn’t look it up) and seven starters plus one starter tonight subbed on in their first WC qualifier at Argentina.

      • You don’t think they were making business decisions out there and loafing it? I feel like we deserved to win considering how they played us but they have another gear or two. The end was very nervy.

      • Obviously teams in a knockout situation can find an extra gear, but they can also melt or run themselves out of position. Their elbows were certainly looking ready for the Copa.

      • That’s understand but if you consider Ecuador an “elite” side then we have different definitions of elite. And don’t trot out the meaningless FIFA rankings. According to them Austria is a top 10 side in the world.

      • Slow not sure anyone said “Elite”. They are a solid squad, 14th in the ELO and tied atop the CONMEBOL qualifying group with wins at Argentina and against Uruguay, so you can’t just dismiss the rankings as false. They were missing two regulars with Avoyi and Valencia due to club play, but Ayovi is 36 and Valencia is 30 and has been moved to fullback for ManU.

        And Austria had a week group for Euro Qualifying but they still won nine qualifiers in a row, #11 maybe not, but still hard to argue with results.

      • Actually the post directly above mine called Ecuador “elite.” They are not. And neither is Austria. The FIFA rankings are a joke.

        Ecuador are a decent side but that’s it.

    • Because this was Nagbe’s sixth cap, and his first five were against StV&G, TnT, Iceland, Canada, and Guatemala.

      • So what, the “regulars” some of y’all want to go back to handed us Gold Cup and Playoff losses. Reliable, losers. I don’t get the obsession with winning as everything in this tournament considering we need to freshen the lineup some to expect any change in results against teams we will see again like Jamaica and Mexico. We have repeatedly gone back to the old man well trying to squeeze out results in important games, and then still not gotten the results.

        I’d rather take some risks. No one expects us to win this.

      • All I am saying is you can’t just throw these guys in against much better competition just because they played well against weak competition and in MLS. We know what we will get from JJ,MB, KB, good and bad, we had no idea what Nagbe would do against it. Now we’ve seen that he can hang and with them so we’ll see going forward.

      • Yes you can throw him out there, because before I risk them for StV, TnT, and beyond that Mexico, etc., it might help to see how they handle this level. For me the beauty of it is these games “count” but also don’t. The games that truly count are this fall and thereafter. I’d rather take risks now to prepare for then, then have to take risks then in the middle of qualifying having re-learned the lesson that our old men now struggle. Which we saw first half. The defense held but we were dominated.

        Again, I don’t think our aim should be to win this. I think we should use it as a proving ground for these new, talented kids. Not Camp Cupcake level kids. I mean the ones we are all raving about from the second half.

    • @djdj
      Well, overlooking your factual deficiencies(“This” Ecuador, will be largely the same in the Copa/ there’s never “minimal risk” when playing Colombia–it’s always maximum) for a moment and just concentrating on your statement of playing for a shoot-out with Colombia–that ain’t exactly an inspiring sentiment.

      The US should be playing to win from the first whistle, thereby avoiding a shoot-out–regardless of the opponent.

      • I guess you know better than the U23 coach herzog who played for a draw to great success down in quito(?) in the first leg of the home and home match for olympic qual. If we play attacking lineup and get cut up by Colombia then Klinsmann will be blamed for not being practical enough. I guess you are right but we always seem to go proactive before a major event and then play practically during the event.

      • Not quito but Bogota(?) Anyway we were conservative and would have been early goal or not. We got the draw.

      • On second thought you are right. Sorry for the attitude but I lack faith in the old guys going forward and feel like Klinsmann will not play the kids in the starting XI.

      • dj: Barranquilla I believe, and you’d be right in a home and home, but I don’t know that we would go that conservative in an opener of a tournament on home soil. Certainly not all out high press like against Guatemala, but the more reserved defensive posture we used tonight.

      • @djdj
        No worries, Dude. Don’t mean to cause offense either.
        I share your frustrations with the rodeo clown tactics/ formations Klinsmann repeatedly employs.

      • djdj: The U23 strategy didn’t actually work. They gave up the equalizer in the first game and then had to play for the win at home.

    • I just depends on your thought process. We tend to play it safe (which usually involves constant waves of attacks against us) on the starters more often than not. I mentioned a few times in other threads that we would likely see the 3 CDM system. Also, as expected, it was…okay. The offensive threat is minimal to none, while our defensive shape and pressing seem to be pretty good, but I’m sure we all noticed how easily Ecuador was able to play in to pockets of space during the beginning of the first half (that subsided after some time). So long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by playing out of the back and giving the ball away cheaply, the 3 CDM system is manageable.

      But, as we also saw, we were a different team in the 2nd half because we actually allowed creative players to do what they do best and Bradley played in front of the back four (that was great…finally) so he could control the tempo out of the back. Once Nagbe is able to create in the middle of the field, it allows the wings to open up for both midfielders and full-backs. All of a sudden, we have possession and we become more threatening. Now, to be fair, they were also making substitutions and they may not have had their full starting 11 from the get go, but most of those players you will see frequently (it wasn’t just some scrubs they threw together).

      All in all, there is excitement with the skill level of our younger players and their ability to both be dangerous on offense and still get the job done offensively. A lot of our younger players are playing abroad in very good leagues and you can see the growth, even in short time frames. Let’s keep winning and hopefully we can manage to get out of the group during the Copa.

    • It was a better attack second half, possession, creativity, skill. Sometimes the best defense is some offense. We did hold up fairly well first half playing defensively but that is bunkerball and depending on the day and the personnel maybe works maybe doesn’t.

  15. Uh hey SBI? Pretty sure Nagbe’s uniform matched the rest of the USA team tonight. Shirts were black, not blue. Now that’s some shoddy editorial…


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