“Overall, our collective defense I thought was good,” MNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said post-game.
“John Brooks was Man of the Match, he got the coach’s game ball as well. Aaron Long could have gotten it, Tyler Adams was excellent and Tim Ream was good. We didn’t give them any openings. They couldn’t find penetrating passes. They resorted to long balls and those guys gobbled everything up.
“From a team standpoint, I was happy with the defensive shape, happy with the structure and it was good that our center backs – even when we’re up the field – that they could win every duel that comes at them. It was really impressive.”
Partnering for the first time, the central defensive pair of Brooks and Long combined to win 13 of the 16 duels they faced against Ecuador.
Positive Returns for Adams at Right Back
Much of the talk leading up to Thursday’s match revolved around Tyler Adams playing the hybrid right back/central midfield role in the system Berhalter has been working to implement with the MNT.
First on display during January Camp when Nick Lima executed it against Panama and Costa Rica, Adams lined up as a right back defensively, but partnered with Wil Trapp in the center of the park as the team moved into the attack. The difference in the movements between Adams and left back Tim Ream is illustrated in the heat maps below:
Tim Ream Movement vs. Ecuador
Tyler Adams Movement vs. Ecuador
The early returns were positive and Adams said that having Long, who he knows well from his time at the New York Red Bulls, alongside him gave him more comfort as he pinched inside.
“Even when I play my natural position, there’s so much to work on,” the 20-year-old said post-game. “For me the biggest thing is embracing the role and trying to run with it. I think the guys around me helped me and gave me confidence. Playing next to Aaron Long, who I’ve had behind me in so many games before was a confidence boost for me and I think I still have the ability to go out there, roam and effect the game. In the end, I still think there are things I need to improve on, but it would be good to go back, watch the video and see some things.”
Ream Wears the Armband
Tim Ream last MNT camp appearance came in the lead up to the 1-1 draw with Portugal in November 2017. Though he didn’t play in that match, the defender was brought along to the camp to be a leader amongst a pretty young group that went on to draw the defending European champions.
After a transitional year in 2018 saw the MNT continue the theme of giving younger players their first taste of the National Team, the 31-year-old admitted he wasn’t sure whether a return was in the cards.
“You’re never not following the program,” Ream said. “You obviously follow along, see who is coming up and is in the squad and what the scores are, but regarding my future, I didn’t know. You never know. It’s a matter of doing well at club level, and obviously I’m not as young as the rest of these guys any more. If I got the call, then great. If I didn’t, I would understand that. There’s definitely been a transition in the past year and if I wasn’t going to be involved, then so be it. Thankfully Gregg has come in and seen fit to have me part of the team.
In Ream, Berhalter saw a veteran still playing at a high level with English Premier League side Fulham, and one that could continue to provide leadership as an emerging group continues to grow. That manifested itself on Thursday night when the St. Louis-born defender captained the MNT for the first time.
“It was a huge honor to be honest with you,” he continued. “Whenever you can captain any team, that’s special, but to have it be your National Team is not something you can really describe. I tried to approach it just as any other match, just keeping myself focused and making sure I do the little things. Be in the right spots and make the right decisions. I made a few wrong decisions, but it was special. There’s no two ways about it and something I’ll be able to tell my kids forever.”
Along with the armband, Ream was credited with the assist on Zardes’ game-winning goal, the second of his international career.
With the win, Berhalter followed Bob Bradley as the second MNT head coach to begin his tenure with three-straight victories. A win on Tuesday against Chile would see Berhalter set the record for most victories at the start of an MNT coaching tenure.
Additionally, the USA has yet to give up a goal in the three games under its new head coach, raising another potential milestone.
A clean sheet against La Roja on Tuesday would tie the record for must shutouts at the start of an MNT coaching tenure, with the previous mark of four straight clean sheets set under Alkis Panagoulias when he began leading the team in 1983-84.Read more
CHICAGO (March 20, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s National Team continues its march towards the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup when it takes on Ecuador on Thursday, March 21 at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla
USA DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), 22-Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 3/0), 1-Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 6/0)
DEFENDERS (8): 5-John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 36/3), 3-Omar Gonzalez (Atlas/MEX; 48/3), 24-Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 2/0), 23-Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 4/0), 16-Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 2/0), 19-Matt Miazga (Reading, ENG; 11/1), 13-Tim Ream (Fulham, ENG; 26/1), 2-DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, ENG; 57/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): 14-Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, GER; 9/1), 4-Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, CAN; 143/17), 17-Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 7/2), 8-Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 7/1), 10-Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 23/9), 15-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 7/0), 6-Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 13/0)
FORWARDS (6): 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 19/3), 20-Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 2/0), 18-Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; 2/0), 11-Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 25/5), 21-Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 2/1), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 42/6)
Wins against Panama (3-0) and Costa Rica (2-0) highlighted the first camp under U.S. MNT head coach Gregg Berhalter in January and in the buildup to those matches the MNT’s domestic player pool steeped itself in developing a new team culture and style of play. Now with a short window of time to prepare for this month’s matches against Ecuador and Chile, Berhalter called back 13 players from the January Camp, while adding a number of the team’s foreign-based contingent to the roster as he and his staff use the March games to make decisions about the roster that will represent the USA at this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup.
“We thought it was important to tie some of the themes of last camp into this next camp and to have some consistency in the personnel made a lot of sense,” Berhalter said. “Again, we still think we’re able to evaluate a new group of players and we think that is going to be valuable as we move into the Gold Cup.”
NEW ‘OLD’ FACES
Among the “first-time” faces in camp with Berhalter are center backs Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream. Returning to the MNT for the first time since 2017, the veteran defenders have continued to play at a high level – Ream with Fulham of the English Premier League and Gonzalez with Atlas in Liga MX – and will be looked to for experience and competition in the group.
“We have been saying all along that we thought it was important to have a veteran presence in the National Team,” Berhalter said. “I think it’s really important when you talk about the history, the heritage and culture of what it means to play for the National Team. In Omar and Tim’s case, they’re both playing at a high level, they’re both playing every week and we thought this would be a good camp to evaluate their performance.”
Meanwhile, forward Jordan Morris also returns for the first time after recovering from a torn right ACL last February. The 24-year-old visited the team in Chula Vista, Calif., for a few days during January Camp before going heading on to preseason and has started the 2019 MLS campaign very well, registering three goals and an assist, helping Seattle Sounders FC to a perfect 3-0-0 record this year.
“On the club stage is when you have small victories, when you see guys returning after long-term injury,” Berhalter said. “On the National Team, it’s equally as gratifying to be able to call a player up after he has had a good preseason and a great start to this season. We’re excited for Jordan. He’s a player that we had contact with in January Camp and it will be great to see him live and in person on the field.”
PREPARING TO PREPARE
One of the challenges for any National Team coach is impacting their players during the long periods between matches. Now add in a new coach and a new game model, and addressing that gap becomes more important. The coaching staff has spent the last six weeks attempting to do just that.
“We have laid a lot of ground work in preparation for this camp,” Berhalter said. “It entailed meeting with the players, video conferences with the players, conversations with the players, evaluating their games … it’s a very important time period to keep working and be productive. We’ve used that time to meet the players and communicate what we’re looking to do in the next camp.”
BIG OPPORTUNITIES FOR MNT GOALKEEPERS
Originally named to the 24-player roster last week, goalkeeper Zack Steffen was forced to withdraw on Sunday due to a minor right knee injury. Steffen’s absence opens the door a bit wider for the likes of Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge) and his replacement, Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas) to stake a bigger claim in the MNT goalkeeping conversation this month.
A veteran of the MNT program since 2011, Johnson, 29, has six caps and appeared during the second half of last month’s 3-0 win against Panama. Since debuting in 2016, the 23-year-old Horvath has earned three caps for the MNT, while Gonzalez is the lone uncapped player on the 24-man roster.
- The teams have met 14 times, with the USA trailing the all-time series by a slight 4-5-5 mark.
- The teams last met in 2016, playing two matches in less than a month’s time. The MNT defeated Ecuador 1-0 in a warm-up friendly for the Copa America Centenario on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas, before earning a 2-1 victory against La Tricolor in the tournament quarterfinals on June 16, 2016 in Seattle.
- MNT striker Gyasi Zardes scored what would stand as the game-winner during the 2-1 quarterfinal victory.
- The MNT is 1-0-0 all-time at Orlando City Stadium. In its last visit, the USA rode a brace from Jozy Altidore as well as goals from Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood to a 4-0 World Cup Qualifying win against Panama on Oct. 6, 2017.
- The USA’s 24-player roster averages 25 years, 266 days and 21 caps, while Ecuador’s 23-man roster is 26 years, 184 days and 19 caps.
USA ROSTER NOTES
- Fifteen players play domestically in Major League Soccer, while nine feature for clubs abroad in Germany (4), England (3), Belgium and Mexico (1 each).
- Based on appearances, the senior-most players on the roster are Michael Bradley (143), DeAndre Yedlin (57), Omar Gonzalez (48), Gyasi Zardes (42) and John Brooks (36).
- On the flip side, 13 players hold nine or fewer caps.
- Having successfully recovered from a torn right ACL suffered last February with Seattle Sounders FC, forward Jordan Morris returns to the team for the first time since January 2018. The 25-year-old striker has registered three goals and an assist to help Seattle Sounders FC to a perfect 3-0-0 start to the 2019 MLS campaign.
- Veteran defenders Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream make their first camp appearances since 2017.
- Thirteen players return from the MNT’s January Camp squad that earned back-to-back wins against Panama (3-0) and Costa Rica (2-0), while 10 players will take part in their first camp under MNT head coach Gregg Berhalter.
- Midfielder Tyler Adams comes to camp for the first time as a member of German club RB Leipzig. The 20-year-old has found consistent playing time with the Bundesliga side, helping the club to a 6-0-3 record in the eight competitive matches he has appeared in since his debut in late January.
- Zardes is also the only player on the roster to score against either opponent, tallying in the USA’s 2-1 win against Ecuador in the quarterfinal of Copa America Centenario on June 16, 2016 in Seattle.
ECUADOR ROSTER BY POSITION:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Maximo Banguera (Barcelona; 35/0), Alexander Domínguez (Velez Sarsfield/ARG; 47/0), Pedro Ortiz (Delfín; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Gabriel Achilier (Morelia/MEX; 38/1), Xavier Arreaga (Barcelona; 1/0), Beder Caicedo (Barcelona; 2/0), John Narváez (Melgar/PER; 2/0), Juan Carlos Paredes (Emelec; 73/0), Ángelo Preciado (Independiente del Valle; 4/0), Jackson Porozo (Santos/BRA; 0/0), Cristian Ramirez (Krasnodar/RUS; 18/1)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas/USA; 20/0), Renato Ibarra (Club América/MEX; 37/1), Romario Ibarra (Minnesota United FC/USA; 6/3), Jefferson Intriago (LDU Quito; 4/0), Jhegson Méndez (Orlando City SC/USA; 5/0), Jefferson Orejuela (LDU Quito; 12/0), Ayrton Preciado (Santos Laguna/MEX; 9/0), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United/ENG; 93/11)
FORWARDS (4): Leonardo Campana (Barcelona; 0/0), Ángel Mena (Club León/MEX; 9/3), Jhohan Julio (LDU Quito; 0/0), Enner Valencia (Tigres UANL/MEX; 46/27)
- After leading Panama to its first FIFA World Cup appearance in 2018, Hernan Dario Gomez returned as head coach of Ecuador last year. “El Bolilo” famously guided La Tricolor to its first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 2002.
- The early returns for Ecuador under Gomez have been positive, with the team going 4-1-1 in its six matches since last fall.
- Gomez will use his team’s March matches against the USA and Honduras (March 26 in Harrison, N.J.) as final preparation for their own regional tournament, Copa America 2019, to be held this summer in Brazil.
- With 27 goals, forward Enner Valencia sits second on Ecuador’s all-time scoring list, just four behind all-time leader Agustin Delgado.
- With 93 caps, Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia is the most experienced played on the roster.
- Orlando City SC midfielder Jhegson Méndez has the chance of representing Ecuador in his home stadium and headlines the trio of Ecuador players from MLS. The others are Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas) and Romario Ibarra (Minnesota United FC).