Five Things to Know: #USAvECU
Before the U.S. Men's National Team begins play in this summer's Copa America Centenario, it takes on fellow tournament participant Ecuador in a friendly on Wednesday, May 25, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2, UniMas, UDN). Ahead of the match, here are five things to know about La Tri.
La Tri Soccer History
Ecuador has experienced mixed results throughout its long soccer history, with most of its success coming recently. It has qualified for the FIFA World Cup three times (2002, 2006, 2014), with its best finish coming in 2006 when La Tri made it to the Round of 16.
At last year’s Copa America, Ecuador bowed out in the Group Round despite a 2-1 victory against Mexico on its third matchday. Ecuador's best Copa America finish is fourth, which it's done twice (1959, 1993).
Ecuador vs. MNT
Dating back to 1984, the U.S. MNT has faced Ecuador 12 times, and the USA's record against La Tri is 2-5-5 (8 GF, 11 GA). The last bout between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw on Oct. 10, 2014, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., which served as the farewell match for U.S. all-time leading goal scorer Landon Donovan. The last time the MNT defeated Ecuador was March 25, 2007, a 3-1 victory at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
As Ecuador prepares for this summer's Copa America Centenario, it’s looking to build on a string of strong results. Since last year's Copa America, La Tri is 5-1-1, including victories in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Argentina and Uruguay. Ecuador is currently tied with Uruguay for first place in COMEBOL World Cup Qualifying with 13 points apiece through six matches.
For the Centenario, Ecuador will kick off Group B action against Brazil on June 4 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. followed by matches against Peru and Haiti.
Who to Watch
Four Barclays Premier League players - Enner Valencia, Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero and Juan Carlos Paredes - and a strong contingent of domestic league players compose Ecuador’s roster.
The ones to keep an eye on are Enner and Antonio Valencia. This season in the Premier League, Enner Valencia (pictured above), a forward for West Ham United, scored four goals in 19 appearances. Since debuting for La Tri in 2012, he's found the back of the net 14 times in 26 matches. The San Lorenzo, Ecuador native scored twice in last year’s Copa America and will be trying to hit peak form when the Centenario begins in order to repeat his success.
Antonio Valencia missed the 2015 Copa America due to injury but is ready to go this summer. Valencia has been a staple for traditional Premier League power Manchester United, making 174 appearances for the club since he joined in 2009. He will be an important figure for a team trying to make it out of the opening round of Copa America for the first time since 1997.
The Country and Culture
With a population of nearly 16,000,000 people, Ecuador is located in the northwestern region of South America. It was part of the Inca Empire until the Spanish arrived and claimed it as a colony in the 1530’s. For nearly 300 years, the Spanish controlled the area until 1822, when Ecuador earned its independence.
Ecuador is known for its fruits, superb seafood and Andean potatoes. The country’s official language is Spanish, but Quichua, an Inca language, is spoken frequently as well.
Arguably the most famous part of Ecuador is the Galapagos Islands, which inspired Charles Darwin to pen his book “On the Origin of Species” about the theory of evolution. In total, the country is home to nearly 25,000 plant species and more than 1,600 known bird species.