Onyewu's return to form a highlight of American defeat

[USA-ECUADOR] Here are some thoughts in the wake of a 1-0 USA loss to Ecuador Tuesday at Red Bull Arena ...

GOOCH IS BACK. For the first time since suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in the Hexagonal finale against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium nearly two years ago to the day, Oguchi Onyewu is re-claiming his starting spot with the national team.

He followed up a solid 45 minutes -- except for missing a sitter -- against Honduras Saturday by going the distance as a starter in the 1-0 loss to Ecuador. Along with the size and power and strength in the air he’s displayed since debuting for the senior team in 2004, in the last two games he’s anticipated situations rather than reacting to them.

Onyewu thwarted numerous Ecuadoran attacks by reading the play as it approached the penalty area and stepping up to intercept a pass or block a cross. He and central partner Carlos Bocanegra sorted out most of what Ecuador threw at them, and he helped out on the attack, too.

He got into the box during a set play and when the ball wasn’t properly cleared he turned to hit a first-time shot over the bar, and in the final seconds as the USA pushed up for an equalizer, he prodded a ball to Clint Dempsey, who took a shot that was deflected.

Onyewu (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and Clarence Goodson are the only U.S. centerbacks of the large variety, and while captain Bocanegra isn’t small (6-foot, 170) he’s also three years older than Onyewu, who will be 32 at the 2014 World Cup. The need for an experienced veteran to man the middle is critical, and if a big man can fill the bill, that’s a plus.

QUIET ON THE FLANKS. The Americans tightened up their defense after being riddled by Honduras, but fatigue and a more cautious approach also resulted in fewer good scoring chances. Though they put eight shots on the goal, few seriously tested keeper Maximo Banguera.

Right mid Danny Williams, who threatened the Honduran goal three times, seldom got into a good position against Ecuador to either shoot or cross. Both Jozy Altidore and his replacement Juan Agudelo occasionally ranged to the right side to add impetus with only limited success. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann used three outside backs and all were occupied much of the time keeping their corners secure from the raids of Michael Arroyo and Jefferson Montero.

Brek Shea was livlier on the left side than Williams on the right. Shea fired a hard shot in the early minutes that forced a good save. He gave way in the second half to DaMarcus Beasley, who showed the same energy he’d brought to the attack Saturday yet was more effective centrally – from where he launched two shots – then he’d been out wide.

SET PLAYS UNDECISIVE. In the absence of the injured Landon Donovan, several players took care of dead-ball duties, with Michael Bradley providing a significant upgrade to the USA's first-half efforts by Steve Cherundolo and Williams. Nearly all of Bradley’s deliveries dropped into a dangerous area with either a teammate on the end of it or battling for a touch. Some desperate defending and one smart save from keeper Banguera preserved Ecuador’s shutout.

Ecuador scored its winner in the 79th minute when the Ayovi cousins combined to cash in one of the game’s rare threats from the flank during the run of play. Walter Ayovi hit a first-time ball that Jaime Ayovi knifed in front of Tim Ream to head on the bounce past keeper Tim Howard.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann likely wouldn’t sub Ream (he replaced Bocanegra in the 72nd minute) into the game at a late juncture if not for it being played in his home stadium. Still, he got caught on the wrong side of Jamie Ayovi in a standard situation any reliable defender should be able to handle by either winning the ball or at jarring the attacker so he misses the target.

MIDFIELD MIX STILL IN FLUX. Maurice Edu played the more of an attacking role in central midfield, with Kyle Beckerman a bit deeper shielding the back line and ranging from side to side to break up plays.

Both players had good moments, but also some very poor ones. Though Edu did connect with Clint Dempsey a couple of times, he lost the ball in bad spots, and one badly scuffed shot attempt on a very controllable ball opened the gates for an Ecuadoran counterattack. Beckerman won a lot of balls, a few of which he presented to the opponents straightaway without being pressured.

Bradley, who replaced Edu at halftime, brought some stability to the center and instigated sequences that provided balls for Dempsey and Altidore’s halftime replacement, Juan Agudelo. But the lack of bite on the flanks allowed Ecuador to squeeze the field and greatly limit space for Dempsey and Agudelo to get shots within close range.

Oct. 11 in Harrison, N.J.
USA 0 Ecuador 1
Goal: J. Ayovi (W. Ayovi) 79.
USA -- Howard; Cherundolo (Spector, 46), Onyewu, Bocanegra (Ream, 71), Chandler; Beckerman; Williams (Buddle, 64), Edu (Bradley, 46), Shea (Beasley, 46); Dempsey, Altidore (Agudelo, 46).
Ecuador -- Banguera, Morante, Erazo, Achilier, W.Ayovi; Valencia (Suarez, 63), Mendez (Saritama, 69), Castillo, Montero (J. Ayovi, 60); Benitez (Campos, 90), Arroyo (Paredes, 86).

Stats USA/Ecuador
Shots: 22/9
Shots on Goal: 8/4
Saves: 3/8
Corner Kicks: 10/5
Fouls: 12/19
Offside: 2/4

Yellow Cards: USA – Bocanegra 62; Ecuador -- Saritama 87; J. Ayovi 88.

Attendance: 20,707.

Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)

5 comments about "Onyewu's return to form a highlight of American defeat".
  1. Walt Pericciuoli, October 12, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.

    I thought it was a good effort by the USA. The game deserved to be a draw. But more importantly, I see improvement in each match, and while we audition several new players. Our Mid field problems will sort themselves out with the return of Torres, Donovan and Holden.(I hope Bedyoya also gets a run out)Our concern is, who will score? It can't always be Dempsey. We need to find out how Altidore is used at his Dutch club where he is now finding so much goal success.They must have found a way to to provide him with the service he needs to finish.

  2. I w Nowozeniuk, October 12, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.

    USMNT attacking effort is genuinely poor, especially on counters, which have no immediate support whatsoever...off the ball movement is lacking to open up spaces for a killer pass.

  3. John Soares, October 12, 2011 at 2:35 p.m.

    Good effort, fast pace against a good team. Much better display than against Honduras. Still no answer as to the "finish". At this point we need goals even more than wins.

  4. Roger Sokol, October 12, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.

    Saw an article about Jozy's experience so far at AZ Alkmaar. He talked about how the club works on helping players improve. He mentioned how his coaches are working with him on how to hold the ball into space, when and how to make runs, how to improve and use his strength, etc. That's exactly what Jozy needs to reach his full potential. (This kind of instruction is something the Dutch are famous for.)So, hopefully, with more playing exerience we'll see some steady improvement in Altidore. Even so, I think his play has improved markedly from previous stints with the MNT. Maybe that will provide some part of a long term answer for the "finish". I also liked now the US strang passes together to retain possession. Even when mistakes were made or passes intercepted, you could see that the player ahd a clear idea of what he was trying to do. There was much less of the mindless balls to nowhere which were so prevalent previously.

  5. Paolo Jacobs, October 13, 2011 at 7:33 a.m.

    one thing i noticed is, Jozy gave a full effort this time, so maybe the Dutch way is really helping him( not to mention great service!)... and it was great to see Gooch back to his normal self, and not a moment too soon... I think once WC qualfying gets underway, Klinsy will know who's gonna be the players he can rely on, and hopefully we'll be producing more gols by then...

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