The United States didn’t have much finishing opportunities, but when they needed it the most, Gyasi Zardes’ only shot at goal was the difference maker.
The match lacked a high number of shots on target from both teams, but an 81st-minute goal from Zardes spearheaded the U.S. men’s national team towards a narrow 1-0 victory over Ecuador Thursday night in front of an announced crowd of 17,442 at Orlando City Stadium.
A giveaway from Ecuador’s defensive third found Tim Ream, who then played the ball to Zardes, who then struck from distance, deflecting off Robert Arboleda then off the crossbar into the goal.
“When you look at the positioning of Ecuador it became challenging to break them down,” U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game. “Very compact. I thought in the first half we created some good moves and were able to penetrate around the edge and get the ball in front of goal. We’re unlucky not to score with Paul [Arriola] in the first half and created a number of half-chances that should have amounted to more.”
“Overall, when you look at the amount of information we’ve given the guys in the last two days, we’re pleased with the performance,” he added. “I think it’s a good starting point for this group. The defending was really good, so we’re pleased.”
The U.S. only totaled two shots on target throughout the night, with the second eventually paying dividends as it pivoted Berhalter’s side towards the victory.
In the 22nd minute, the U.S. almost opened the scoring when Christian Pulisic made a turn into the box, setting up Paul Arriola, who’s shot on target was saved by Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.
It was the first time Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams started together for the United States.
But McKennie’s game was cut short when he left the match in the 68th minute after suffering a left ankle injury, which Berhalter said after the game will be evaluated with an MRI to determine the status of the injury.
Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, defenders Omar Gonzalez and Nick Lima, and forward Christian Ramirez did not suit up for the United States on Thursday.
Up next for the U.S.
vs. Chile on Tuesday, March 26 at 7:55 p.m. ET.
81′ Gyasi Zardes
How the USMNT lined up
USMNT XI: Sean Johnson, John Brooks, Will Trapp, Paul Arriola, Weston McKennie, Gyasi Zardes, Christian Pulisic, Jordan Morris, Team Ream (c), Tyler Adams, Aaron Long.
United States Bench: Ethan Horvath, DeAndre Yedlin, Michael Bradley, Christian Roldan, Daniel Lovitz, Sebastian Lletget, Jonathan Lewis, Matt Miazga, Corey Baird.
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