USA-Ecuador: Orozco in line for biggest start of career

After starting the same lineup for three games in a row -- something it has never done since the 1930 World Cup -- the USA will be forced to make at least one change, at right back, against Ecuador on Thursday. DeAndre Yedlin's red card means Michael Orozco will likely get the biggest start of his national team career and be tasked with helping shut down the strength of the Tricolor attack.

Left winger Jefferson Montero and captain Walter Ayovi at left back will present a huge challenge to Orozco -- a challenge he is all to well familiar with. He faced Montero in Mexico when he played for Morelia and Ayovi at Monterrey.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is not worried who starts in the place of Yedlin, who will miss his homecoming game.

"It's a bummer that DeAndre cannot play,"Klinsmann said on Tuesday, "but I'm not worried because I know whoever plays instead of him will get his job done, will give everything he has. The team know it, the starting team. The bench know it and everybody feels appreciated in his own role right now."

Klinsmann has multiple options -- put Steve Birnbaum at right back (like he did against Canada in January), move Geoff Cameron to right back (an unlikely option, given the Stoke City defender's successful partnership at center back with John Brooks) or put Fabian Johnson there (like at the World Cup 2014) and install Edgar Castillo or Matt Besler at left back -- but all indications are he will start Orozco, one of five starters from Klinsmann's first game with the national team in 2011 still with the team.

Orozco, whose goal gave the USA its first win over Mexico at Azteca Stadium in 2012, was a starter for the first part of the 2013 Gold Cup before Besler was called in for the knockout stage. In injury kept him off Klinsmann's short list of 30 players for the 2014 World Cup, and another injury limited him to three league appearances at Mexican club Tijuana in 2016.

Despite being in and out of the national team, Orozco, Klinsmann said, has never complained.

"He's an outstanding individual, very focused," Klinsmann said. "Michael has always been there for the team. Every time he's come in, he's done his job."

Another key to the game is how the U.S. outside midfielders handle Ecuador's wing play. Particularly, how they push forward without the support of Yedlin, who is a much more attack-minded outside back than Orozco.

"If you look back two years ago in Brazil," said Klinsmann, "our wingers -- it was Ale [Bedoya] and it was Graham [Zusi] -- had to deal a lot with the fullbacks from the other teams going forward. Often they were pushed backwards. Now they've learned -- and Gyasi [Zardes] is in that learning path right now -- to push their fullbacks back, to make an impression on them. Take the game to them, that's what we talked about over the last couple of years."
3 comments about "USA-Ecuador: Orozco in line for biggest start of career".
  1. Kent James, June 16, 2016 at 9:45 a.m.

    Never been impressed by Orozco; I hope JK uses other options (my preference would be to put Cameron wide and bring in Besler in the center, or maybe move Johnson over and bring in Castillo).

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, June 16, 2016 at 12:20 p.m.

    I thought Besler did well during his turn at left back in the friendly. I think Cameron's pairing with Brooke is a factor in Brooks' outstanding performance. I don't doubt that Besler would play well at CB; my question is would Brooks play as well with Besler as with Cameron. I wouldn't want to experiment now just to find out. Fitness issues will probably have the biggest influence on the coaching decisions.

  3. beautiful game, June 16, 2016 at 10:44 a.m.

    The big question is whether the MF can provide a solid two way performance.

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