USA-Ecuador: Nagbe makes it a feel-good friendly

It felt at times as if one were watching a scrimmage, the USA-Ecuador Copa Centenario preparation friendly before a sparse crowd in Frisco, Texas. But Darlington Nagbe  rewarded the fans, who suffered through some lackluster play from both teams, with a last-minute golazo for a 1-0 USA win.

1. It was a good result for Klinsmann’s men

Considering the USA’s form within the last year -- Gold Cup and Concacaf Cup failure, a World Cup qualifying loss at Guatemala and tie at Trinidad & Tobago -- this result has to feel good for Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, even if it came in a home friendly.

USA-Ecuador: Player Ratings

It marked the USA’s most impressive result since beating Germany and the Netherlands in 2015 summer friendlies. No, Ecuador doesn’t rate as high as those teams, but higher than any teams the USA has beaten since. After six games, Ecuador is in second place in South American World Cup qualifying and eight of the Ecuadorans on the field in Frisco played in wins at Argentina and/or at home over Uruguay late last year.

2. We’ll see a 17-year-old play in the Copa.

Christian Pulisic, who broke in at Borussia Dortmund this year, came on in the 63rd minute and helped create the two best U.S. chances in the second half before Nagbe’s goal. In fact, the 17-year-old would have scored had Alejandro Bedoya noticed Pulisic was in front of the open net when he tried to blast a low shot from an impossibly tight angle.

Pulisic also did a fantastic job keeping possession when the USA was holding on to its lead in stoppage time.

3. We know who should start on Saturday.

The USA has one more prep game before kicking off the Copa Cententario on June 3 against Colombia. And when it faces Bolivia on Saturday, Klinsmann should evaluate Pulisic as a starter, and also start Nagbe and Bobby Wood, who along with DeAndre Yedlin assisted on the gamewinner.

Klinsmann probably already has Wood slated to start in the Copa but wanted to test Gyasi Zardes against Ecuador. Zardes failed the exam and the USA played remarkably better in the second half than in the first.

But what happens late in a friendly with both teams platooning -- Ecuador subbed five in the last half hour -- doesn’t replicate a competitive game.

In any case, Nagbe, after his sixth appearance as a sub since debuting in last November, is overdue for being on the field at kickoff.

May 25 in Frisco, Texas
USA 1, Ecuador 0. 
Goal: Nagbe 90.
USA --
Guzan; Yedlin, Birnbaum, Brooks (Besler, 78), Johnson; Beckerman (Nagbe, 46), Zusi (Orozco, 87), Jones (Bedoya, 64), Bradley, Zardes (Wood, 46), Dempsey (Pulisic, 63).
Ecuador -- Dominguez (Dreer, 46); Paredes, Erazo, Achilier (Arboleda, 73), Ramirez; Noboa (Gaibor, 69), Gruezo (Larrea, 59), Mena, Montero (Arroyo, 64); E.Valencia, Bolanos (Cazares, 68).
Referee: Alfredo Penaloza (Mexico).
Att.: 9,893.

13 comments about "USA-Ecuador: Nagbe makes it a feel-good friendly".
  1. Garrett Isacco, May 26, 2016 at 7:44 a.m.

    Nagbe, Pulisic and Woods were difference makers, and definitely more effective than the players they replaced. Good win for the USA.

  2. charles davenport, May 26, 2016 at 7:51 a.m.

    Ecuador's premier league players and others exhausted or taking it easy, possibly.

  3. Miguel Dedo, May 26, 2016 at 8:12 a.m.

    Can JK overcome his compulsion to control? Will he leave the good players where they play best -- or shuffle them around to insist that Jurgen knows best?

  4. Daniel Clifton, May 26, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.

    You answered your own question didn't you Miguel. Why is Fabian Johnson still playing in the back when his best position is in midfield? Klinsmann did get it right when he placed Bradley at the holding midfield position. I agree with Garrett - Nagbe, Woods, and Pulisic should be on the field. These guys have ball skills to go along with some speed. Woods is strong. The first half was boring. The second half was fun to watch.

  5. Eric Schmitt replied, May 26, 2016 at 12:03 p.m.

    In regards to Fabian Johnson playing in the back, JK said it himself: he doesn't have a better option. They have no competent LB's in the pool. Granted, part of the reason for that has been JK's insistence on using people like Beasley, Shea, and Castillo who routinely fail their tests of opportunity, instead of trying out new folks with greater potential. Nonetheless, the cold hard truth is he's stuck. We need a competent LB and have no better options.

  6. Wooden Ships replied, May 26, 2016 at 6:28 p.m.

    Eric, I'm going to say that st this point in our development-direction, Fabian is more important at left mid. We need to focus, like a laser, on our possession and attacking abilities. It's high time we put pressure on our attack. The more we play in the middle and attacking third, the better. I'm not saying Fabian isn't maybe the best of the group to play there, but the difference between him and another at left back isn't as big as him and another at left mid. You, maybe JK and probably the majority prefer to be strong in back first and typically that's hard to argue. But, maybe for the first time in our teams history we should try the opposite.

  7. beautiful game, May 26, 2016 at 9:54 a.m.

    Pulisic can only get better. His soccer IQ was the best on the pitch and he handled pressure without the usual boom-it-field Jimmy mentality. The young man is talented and had good coaching.

  8. Jeffrey Organ, May 26, 2016 at 10:29 a.m.

    I don't understand why US Soccer continues to schedule USMNT games, that do not involve Mexico, anywhere in Texas. It always is a major struggle to get people to show up because few care.

  9. beautiful game replied, May 26, 2016 at 11:18 a.m.

    Simple explanation...Texas fan support is 75% in favor of Mexico.

  10. Ginger Peeler, May 26, 2016 at 1:43 p.m.

    I believe there was an article in Soccer America recently that mentioned a young player who was exhibiting some good left back skills. Jurgen hasn't brought him onto any camps yet, but probably will if the kid continues to play the position well. Sorry I can't remember which MLS team he was on. Something to look forward to....

  11. Ginger Peeler, May 26, 2016 at 2:57 p.m.

    Earlier on Wednesday, I also watched the last half of the AIFF Youth Cup Final in Goa, India pitting our U-17 boys against South Korea. George Acosta had been sent off in the first half with a red card, so the USA had already been playing down a man when I began watching. We did a lot of nice passing without a lot of long kicks and some really nice defending. Those kids held on in 80° plus weather through part of the first half, all of the second half and most of the 2 overtime periods with only 10 players before conceding a goal. Impressive! Hopefully these boys will mature into really talented tecnical and soccer-smart men who will be playing for our senior team.

  12. Wooden Ships replied, May 27, 2016 at 11:54 a.m.

    Ginger, I didn't see the game but what lead to the red card?

  13. John Soares, May 26, 2016 at 3:45 p.m.

    First half was as uninspiring soccer as I have seen in awhile, by a national team. Second half was much better and USA was the better team. Wonder who will show up next week. It is sad that on a beautiful afternoon so few fans show up to enjoy/support their team.

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