This was a tale of two halves, one in which the USA were mostly bad and another where they were mostly good. Also, those Ecuador kits are nice, bring back the sash Nike.
1. The following players were not good...
Gyasi Zardes and Kyle Beckerman. Probably Dempesy too. But mostly Zardes.
Zardes will probably replace DeAndre Yedlin as my USMNT target for routinely saying mean things about, because why he continues to start at left wing is beyond me at this point. The US are often disjointed with him in the attack, he can't hold possession and the only decent chance of the entire first half he scuffed. Beckerman was largely fine but US struggled mightily without a true playmaker on the field in the attacking half and couldn't maintain possession in the attacking half until he was subbed off for Nagbe.
I predicted a midfield triangle of Jones-Bradley-Beckerman for this game and Klinsmann proved me right. But he did the smart thing and inverted Jones and Bradley, leaving them further upfield with Beckerman as cover in behind. In theory, I actually like it. In practice, with the attackers around them in the first half, it was a disaster. I still think Beckerman and Zardes have roles for Copa America, but they're likely going to be coming off the bench in CA2016 after today.
Now the question is how can Klinsmann get Bradley-Jones-Dempsey-Bedoya-Pulisic-Wood into either a formation that works on both ends of the field.
2. The following players are good at soccer...
Bobby Wood. Darlington Nagbe. Christian Pulisic. Nagbe. Alejandro Bedoya. Nagbe. Bradley as a #6. Nagbe.
That second half was a lot of really good soccer from the USA. Bobby Wood's hold up play was noticeable at both left wing and striker as he was able to help the US maintain possession in the second half. Pulisic looked like a seasoned veteran on the ball. Bedoya seemingly found a position and excelled doing a little bit of everything. And did I mention Darlington Nagbe was good at soccer?
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Darlington Nagbe completed every one of his 33 passes. Oh yeah, he scored too. #usmnt— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) May 26, 2016
It is amazing what the USMNT can accomplish with an actual playmaker in the CAM role. No, not Michael Bradley or Jermaine Jones who can still play those killer long balls from time to time to break defenses, I mean an actual #10.
Lee Nguyen didn't get the call this time, much to dismay of New England Revolution fans, however, Nagbe getting a chance to shine is at least a small consolation. Both players would be tasked with doing the same thing, finding space, completing passes in the final third, and generating chances. The USMNT has desperately needed this type of player, and Klinsmann to actually use a #10 properly for some time now and perhaps Copa America will be Nagbe's international breakout.
In the 70th minute, both Wood and Bedoya sent low crosses across the face of goal only to have no one get on the end of them. Pulisic was in the area of the Bedoya cross but it just shows what a true attacking trio can do with a playmaker (Nagbe) and a holding midfielder (Bradley) covering up the mistakes.
3. Oh, and the backline was pretty solid throughout.
Say what you want about Fabian Johnson playing left back out of necessity, but that does seem to solve so many problems for the US defense. John Brooks and Steve Birnbaum were solid throughout, with Birnbaum again showing his aerial threat on set pieces. With Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and even Omar Gonzalez at centerback, the US still has some fullback depth issues to work out but the backline seems as solid as it has been in recent memory.
This might have been a disinterested Ecuador team but the US struggled in possession for most of the first half before a dominant stretch right after halftime tipped the scales slightly back to the Americans. Yes, Brooks got taken out of the play once and was bailed out thanks to a 30 yard run from Bradley but for the most part Ecuador never really threatened the US net.
One of the reasons I wanted to see Lee Nguyen, or Darlington Nagbe, on the field for the United States is this:
First half: 40% (18 of 45)— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) May 26, 2016
Second half: 71% (44 of 62) https://t.co/fcx1GtGUW0
Those are the passing numbers for the USMNT in the final third against Ecuador. The Revolution are the best team in MLS, by a lot, at completing passes in their attacking third and that's something the US has struggled with. In the first half, without Nagbe and with Dempsey as a lone striker, these passes were nearly non-existent. In the second half, after some tactical changes, the US looked like a very threatening team, soccer was legitimately played and chances were created and eventually finished.
Now we just need Klinsmann to actually get this to work against Colombia in about a week.