The US Men's National Team begins the knockout phase of Copa America tonight against Ecuador in Seattle. When they take the field, the Yanks will do so without the services of hometown hero, DeAndre Yedlin, who was ejected from the Paraguay match after receiving two yellow cards in the span of less than 2 minutes and will be suspended from this match. As a result, the Jurgen Klinsmann will be forced to start a new lineup for the first time this tournament, and one of the big talking points has been how the back line will be tweaked due to Yedlin's absence. Will Michael Orozco or Steve Birnbaum slot into his place, or will Matt Besler come into the center with Geoff Cameron moving outside? Will Fabian Johnson flip over to the right (where he played in the World Cup 2014 and the CONCACAF cup against Mexico) bringing Edgar Castillo at left back or might we see Matt Besler reprise his role there as he did in the friendly against Ecuador 3 weeks ago?
Misleading Stat of the Day:
The US Men's National Team is 0-3-1 against Ecuador. They have never beaten them in a competitive match.
That is 100% fact, and it is 100% misleading. The last time the US faced Ecuador in a competitive match was in 1993 (before at least one of our writer's was born). Since then, their record has been 3-2-2 with all of those matches occurring in the United States. What isn't a misleading stat is that the US has 6 of their regular lineup for this tournament who will miss a potential semifinal date if they were to pick up a yellow card tonight. It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect this has on squad selection. On a neutral field, this matchup is pretty close to a toss up, so I wouldn't expect much deviation from Klinsmann even if it were prudent.
Ah Klinsmann, the much hated and derided- he's made of Teflon. Winning the toughest group in Copa America has certainly dampened the hopes of the snarky intellects and angry rabble alike that Sunil Gulati would hand him a pink slip after failing to advance. His tacttics and selection a mess, certainly he had to be replaced (I mean, we could have actual real living Dutch people!). The experiment seems like it's safe now through 2018 (provided they advance to the World Cup finals), but it wasn't without squeaky bum time for Klinsy despite having the best winning percentage in USMNT history. I actually saw people compliment his tactical acumen after the adjustment in the Costa Rica game (stock up on canned goods, folks).
Speaking of which, a lot has been made of the US switching to two strikers (in a 4-4-2 or 4-1-3-2 depending on who you ask) from about half way through the first half of the Costa Rica game through the Paraguay game (minus the spell they played with 10 men). In the Ecuador friendly, they kept a 4-3-3 formation for most of the game, and in the 2nd half, this lead to a dominant and appealing half of play that ultimately produced the late winner by Darlington Nagbe. The assist on the goal was provided from a Bobby Wood header after he had switched inside from the left wing (although he did create a nice chance from the left) to his more natural position of center forward.
One particularly appealing feature of the regular group in this tournament is the fact that it can change shape on the fly depending on the state of the game. While it's true the 4-3-3 does not put Clint Dempsey or Bobby Wood in their most natural positions, it did starve Ecuador of possession in the 2nd half and 5 of the US's 7 shots that night did come in the 2nd half. With Yedlin out, I won't be surprised if the US sticks with a 4-4-2 to help widen the defensive shape tonight, but I also won't be surprised if they go with the Costa Rica formula and start in a 4-3-3 perhaps in hopes of scoring an early goal. If this happens, count on the cognoscenti complaining about it (even though they probably shouldn't).
As loathe as I am to say it, CenturyLink Field does provide a great advantage to the US tonight. Even with this one sure to fall short of a sellout, it's loud and rowdy. Not only are the locals passionate, the stadium itself was designed to reflect sound. Feeding off that energy, I'm expecting a frenetic pace from the US tonight. This will lead to an early goal and a late capper for a Dos a Cero win against the other Tricolor with a likely semifinal date against Argentina in Houston next Tuesday as the reward.