KENYA BROWN - Thursday, May 26, 2016
Darlington Nagbe's goal near full-time gave the United States a narrow win over Ecuador as the team continued its preparations for the Copa América Centenario.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to rotate the team after their 3-1 win over Puerto Rico, with Steve Birnbaum playing in central defense alongside John Brooks. Fabian Johnson made his return to the starting line-up after overcoming a groin injury. Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Gyasi Zardes and Clint Dempsey were all included at the start.
The first half was rather slow-paced and Ecuador showed their strength on the wings, but could not find the a way to score the opening goal. La Tricolor were clearly the dominant side in the early stages, but the U.S. defense was able to turn them away each time.
The U.S. would get themselves into the game later as Dempsey took a chance with a free kick, but it sailed over the bar. He set another opportunity for the team with a pass to Zardes, but the LA Galaxy man's first touch let him down and Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez made the easy grab.
With the offense not clicking, Klinsmann made several changes as he put on Nagbe and Bobby Wood at the half. This seemed to work out well as the U.S. start to make more opportunities on the Ecuadorian goal.
Jones had a shot on goal after some hard work from Nagbe, but the ball went straight to the goalkeeper. Bradley also had a chance from long range, but it went over the bar.
Christian Pulisic and Alejandro Bedoya would come on later, and the Nantes midfielder had another opportunity at goal for the U.S. His effort in the 72nd minute from a Zusi pass just went past the post.
The U.S. looked like a much different side than the first half and were rewarded with the game-winning goal just before full-time. DeAndre Yedlin crossed the ball into the box from the right but it was poorly cleared by the Ecuadorian defense. Wood kept his eye on the ball and headed it towards a wide open Nagbe at the penalty spot. He would chest it down and volley his shot past the goalkeeper for the only goal of the game. It was his first international goal for the U.S.
The team now head to Kansas City, Kansas, where they will play against Bolivia on Saturday.