USA-Ecuador: Three storylines to follow

The USA plays Ecuador in its first Copa Centenario warm-up since MLS players entered camp. The game should give fans an idea how the USA might open the tournament against Colombia even though it will be without Geoff Cameron, who is still rehabbing a hamstring injury suffered on the final day of the English Premier League season with Stoke City.

UPDATE: U.S. XI vs. Ecuador: Guzan, Yedlin, Birnbaum, Brooks, Johnson, Bradley, Beckerman, Jones, Zardes, Dempsey, Zusi.

1. First look at new backline.

Cameron and John Brooks are expected to be Klinsmann's first choice at center back. The other three options are Matt Besler, who started alongside Cameron for the first two games at the 2014 World Cup, Steve Birnbaum, who started with Cameron in the 4-0 win over Guatemala in March, and Michael Orozco, who started with Brooks in the 3-1 win over Puerto Rico on Sunday.

Brooks has started with Orozco five times but never played with Besler or Birnbaum. He played in the second half of the 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana with Cameron when he came on for the injured Besler and scored the winning goal.

If Fabian Johnson is healthy -- he was also kept out of the Puerto Rico game -- he should team up with DeAndre Yedlin on the outside. The only other natural outside back on the Copa Centenario roster is Timmy Chandler, but he just arrived in camp on Tuesday after finishing up in the German promotion-relegation playoffs. Given Chandler's situation, Kellyn Acosta was called in as cover.

2. Two or three in central midfield?

One of the decisions Klinsmann will have to make is whether to go with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in central midfield or add a third central midfielder, Kyle Beckerman, as he did against Ghana in 2014 and Mexico in the 2015 Concacaf Cup.

It could be an option for the opening game against Colombia -- the most attack-minded of the three Group A opponents -- before Klinsmann switches to a more traditional 4-4-2 with Bradley and Jones teamed together like in the opening two World Cup 2018 qualifiers in November 2015.

3. Two or three up front?

Klinsmann faces the same decision -- two or three up front? Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey started both March qualifiers against Guatemala, while Gyasi Zardes joined them for the second game in Columbus, which the USA won, 4-0.

Zardes has excellent for the LA Galaxy, pushing Jordan Morris down the U.S. depth chart up front, and could be merit another look against Ecuador.

USA vs. Ecuador:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, ENG), Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), Wiliam Yarbrough (Leon/MEX).
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt, GER), Michael Orozco (Tijuana, MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland, ENG).
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, FRA), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia M'Gladbach, GER), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Hearts, SCO), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
FORWARDS (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg, GER), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy).

9 comments about "USA-Ecuador: Three storylines to follow".
  1. Rusty Welch, May 25, 2016 at 10:27 a.m.

    Uhh... yeah, Fabian Johnson is a GREAT midfielder, and a decent defender. How about we quit playing guys outside of their best position? Also, Beckerman shouldn't even be on the roster, he gives away possession way too much and has not shown that he's capable of playing at this level. Jermaine Jones may be the best option, but he's too old for Russia so should not be on the roster.
    I've been a Klinsmann supporter, but I think the stress of needing to win is getting to him. If we are really interested in progressing in Russia, we should be focused on the guys who might go - not Wondo and Jones.

  2. Miguel Dedo, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 p.m.

    This is not about tomorrow (Russia) it is about today (Copa Centanario) Focusing on tomorrow becomes an excuse for failing today. Win today.

  3. Wooden Ships replied, May 25, 2016 at 2:18 p.m.

    Miguel, I wish I shared your optimism for Russia. What have you seen since Brazil that's going to see us through the Hexagonal? As we are constituted now, we can't win this. JK hasn't transitioned at all since he was hired. Don't get me wrong, loved him as a player, but he hasn't markedly changed this teams approach since day one. What will your position be when we resume qualifying?

  4. John Lander, May 25, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.

    It about both. Winning now and developing for the future. Backman is not good enough and old. So too is Wondo. Both are a waist of a roster spot.
    Jermaine is still one of our better option as holding mid. Nagbe needs to be running the team from center mid with Johnson and Pulisic on either side.

  5. Wooden Ships replied, May 25, 2016 at 2:21 p.m.

    Agreed John, especially your mid assignments. We have to learn/be able to possess the ball if we will ever be a contender. We're embarrassing in that regard in our own region. We win and advance on restarts and hope.

  6. Dan Phillips, May 25, 2016 at 7:39 p.m.

    JK should have included JK on roster? And why in the world would you pick Wondo an aging choke of a forward over Jordan Morris is beyond me.JK is is complete buffoon.

  7. Dan Phillips, May 25, 2016 at 7:40 p.m.

    Brek Shea should be in roster.

  8. Dan Phillips, May 25, 2016 at 7:42 p.m.

    Klinsmann will bomb out at Copa America Centanario, I predict. And then he should be fired.

  9. Dan Phillips, May 25, 2016 at 7:43 p.m.

    USMNT needs a fresh new coach. Klinsmann has become stale!

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