USA vs. Ecuador: 5 Things We Learned About Jürgen Klinsmann's Squad
After a commanding performance at Red Bull Arena, Jürgen Klinsmann and his band of kids lost a tough match to a strong Ecuadorian attack, with a Jaime Ayoví goal putting the South American side ahead 1-0.
This match is Klinsmann's third loss since taking over the USMNT in July, but that doesn't mean it's all gloom and doom in New Jersey tonight.
Despite the lack of goal scoring remaining a nagging problem for this side, and one costly error giving victory to the opponents, there were still many things to be optimistic about tonight.
"Klinsmann's Kids" are continuing to come into form, with Brek Shea and Danny Williams both giving solid performances, and some returning faces are showing resurgence. Among them are Oguchi Onyewu and DaMarcus Beasley, who was heavily involved toward the end of the second half.
Here are five lessons we learned from tonight's loss at the Red Bull Arena. For more thoughts and lessons worth discussing, have at it in the comments.
The USMNT Is Capable of Seriously Great Defending
Most of the time, anyway.
The costly error which led to Ayoví's goal aside, this was a pretty well-defended match for the USMNT, especially considering how formidable the Ecuador offense was.
Two members of the USMNT in particular stepped up to limit Ecuador's chances—Oguchi Onyewu was on form and reasserted himself as a leader on the pitch, and then there was Timothy Chandler.
Let's talk about Timothy Chandler. Out of his usual element, playing as a left-back instead of his natural right, Chandler still excelled, leading some rapid-fire charges down the flank and demonstrating impeccable skill and control.
One of the more recent additions to the national team, the 21-year-old is really starting to come into his own, and more good things should come as the World Cup qualifiers draw closer.
Speaking of Which, Oguchi Onyewu Should Definitely Stick Around
In his first start for the USMNT in ages, the Gooch seems to finally be answering the critics who wrote his national team career off as over as far back as the 2010 World Cup.
He showed signs of resurgence when he went on for Michael Orozco-Fiscal against Honduras, and helped keep the USMNT's opponents from scoring.
In his first start under Jürgen Klinsmann, Onyewu led the defensive stronghold against Ecuador, keeping the attacks from Michael Arroyo and Christian Benítez at bay in critical moments.
He also proved he can hold his own on the attack toward the end of the match, helping create a solid but ultimately unsuccessful chance for Dempsey in the final minutes of the match.
If he can maintain this defensive prowess in future matches, he will be a fixture for the USMNT when the World Cup comes a-knockin'.
DaMarcus Beasley May Not Be Done Quite Yet...
...but if he can't improve on tonight, he might be soon.
Puebla winger DaMarcus Beasley hasn't scored a goal for the US Men's National Team since 2008, and in his last 30 appearances he has only scored one goal.
He wasn't at his best tonight, to be sure, and he's nowhere near where he was at the top of his career—and his lack of speed and commitment to the ball left something to be desired. In fact, his performance tonight was likely the most polarizing with fans.
But the 29-year-old did show some signs of life on the pitch. He performed better than some of Klinsmann's other sub choices and gave a good effort towards the end of the match. A couple of times it even looked like he, of all people, would get the equalizing goal.
If he can just stay on the ball and not get deterred by defenders so easily, he has a shot at becoming an impact sub USMNT fans will take seriously again. If not, well, then he will remain a relic of the early '00s.
Making All the Substitutions Is Probably Not a Good Idea
Substitutions are like onions. Put into a dish in the right amount and at the right time, they can bring in a lot of flavor and pack a punch. But put in too many at once, and the results will inevitably make you cry.
That's not to say all of Klinsmann's second-half substitutions performed poorly (DaMarcus Beasley and Juan Agudelo both made particularly good efforts, along with Michael Bradley towards the end), but the pace of the game gradually shifted in favor of Ecuador after the replacements took to the pitch.
The inclusion of Tim Ream in place of Captain Carlos Bocanegra was particularly baffling. Although the match was at his home ground and there may have been a thought that Ream would have some kind of home-field advantage, the New York Red Bulls defender instead made an error which gave Ecuador the win.
There Are Still Reasons to Be Optimistic
As said before, it wasn't all dismal in tonight's match, and there are quite a few reasons for optimism worth highlighting.
The newcomers—"Klinsmann's Kids"—all showed signs of promise tonight.
Brek Shea connected well with his teammates, reacted quickly and made some good goal attempts. Danny Williams gave a solid effort with some great touches and good control. Tim Chandler, as stated before, impressed in the second half with speed and tenacity and Juan Agudelo was energetic and involved in the attack towards the end.
The veterans delivered too: Clint Dempsey, despite not being able to follow up on his success against Honduras, was resilient in his goal attempts and made some cracking shots, while DaMarcus Beasley looked somewhat resurgent.
There are still some matters which need to be addressed, most notably the lack of scoring. But, for now, the US Men's National Team has made some positive strides. So let's make like Monty Python and always look on the bright side of life.