HARRISON, N.J. – For all the talk about an offensive resurgence under Jurgen Klinsmann’s regime, the US national team is certainly struggling to usher in the new era in style.
Klinsmann fiddled with a number of different combinations en route to a familiar result on Tuesday, as the Americans trudged to a 1-0 loss to Ecuador in an international friendly at Red Bull Arena that marked the third offensive flop in five games under the new head coach.
The game-winner went to Ecuador’s Jamie Ayoví, who surged over US defender Tim Ream and snapped a header past goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 79th minute. The goal soured an otherwise steady effort from the American back line, but the momentary lapse after Ream came on for captain Carlos Bocanegra punctuated a frustrating night for the Americans.
The US have now scored just twice in five matches under Klinsmann and won just once, echoing the same struggles the team had before Klinsmann took the helm: If they can’t score, they won’t win.
Klinsmann tried four forwards on the night – the starting pairing of Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey eventually gave away to the relief team of Juan Agudelo and Edson Buddle – but none found the mark. Dempsey, whose one moment of brilliance lifted the Americans to a 1-0 win over Honduras in Miami this past Saturday, was largely bottled up against Ecuador, and Altidore struggled to break free for enough time to make a difference before Agudelo took his spot at the half.
The genuine scoring chances were few and far between for the US, before and after Klinsmann made four subs at the break. They surged repeatedly in the first half but failed to find the final touch, instead settling for passes drifted too far to the end line or shots that rarely tested Ecuador goalkeeper Máximo Banguera.
Dempsey scorched a volley well over the crossbar from outside the box in the 42nd minute and Banguera coolly parried a left-footed blast from Shea in the fifth minute, but the real chances fizzled down the stretch.
Ecuador, meanwhile, capitalized on one of the few genuine chances on the night after Bocanegra was taken out of the game in the 72nd minute. Left back Walter Ayoví drifted a cross into to the US box that floated to the awaiting head of Jaime Ayoví, who beat Ream to the punch and spoiled the New York Red Bulls defender’s appearance in front of the hometown crowd.
The US trotted out a lineup almost identical to the one used to top Honduras 1-0 on Saturday in Miami, with one very large exception in the back: Oguchi Onyewu. The hulking center back stepped in admirably for the struggling Michael Orozco Fiscal (who failed to make the 18-man roster), marking Onyewu’s first start since he emerged as a starter for Sporting CP this summer, and his first start under Klinsmann’s regime.
The rest of the squad was as expected, with Dempsey and Altidore charged with the duties up top, the tandem of Brek Shea and Timmy Chandler charging up the left flank and newcomer Danny Williams filling the right midfield spot for the injured Landon Donovan. Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman also picked up another start in the central midfield alongside Maurice Edu.
It was a particularly painful go early on for Altidore, who cracked heads with Ecuadorian defender Édison Méndez in the 37th minute and had to be escorted off by US trainers before he gingerly retook the field minutes later.
Altidore didn’t last much longer, replaced by Agudelo at the break. Klinsmann also gave another look to veteran DaMarcus Beasley in place of Shea at the half, Michael Bradley replaced Edu after an off night for the Rangers stalwart and Jonathan Spector took over for Steve Cherundolo.
None of the changes worked, however, as the Americans settled for some pesky but uneventful forays into the box from Onyewu and a free kick from Bradley early in the second half that sailed harmlessly over the bar.
Dempsey also ripped a shot that Banguera steered wide in stoppage time to preserve the shutout.
Although the Americans dictated the tempo in the opening minutes, Ecuador generated the first real scoring chance. Midfielder Jefferson Montero surged up the left flank, past US defender Cherundolo and into the open in the 12th minute, but he trickled a right-footed shot just past the far post.
In fact, Montero was the clear catalyst for most of the Ecuador offense in the early going, repeatedly giving Cherundolo fits down the wing before the chances fizzled. He also skipped a right-footed shot wide in the 60th minute just was subbed out of the match.
The US will return to action during the Nov. 11-15 FIFA dates, but no details of upcoming matches have been announced.
ECU -- J. Ayoví 79’
USA -- Bocanegra 62’
ECU -- Saritama 87’
ECU -- J. Ayoví 88’
USA (4-2-3-1, left to right): #1 Tim Howard -- #3 Timmy Chandler, #5 Carlos Bocanegra (capt.) (72’ #14 Tim Ream), #4 Oguchi Onyewu, #2 Steve Cherundolo (46’ #13 Jonathan Spector) -- #6 Kyle Beckerman, #8 Maurice Edu (46’ #15 Michael Bradley) -- #11 Brek Shea (46’ #16 DaMarcus Beasley), #10 Clint Dempsey, #7 Danny Williams (65’ #17 Edson Buddle) -- #9 Jozy Altidore (46’ #18 Juan Agudelo)
Subs Not Used: #12 Nick Rimando
Ecuador Lineup (4-4-2, left to right): #1 Máximo Banguera -- #10 Walter Ayoví (capt.), #3 Fricson Erazo, #2 Eduardo Morante, #18 Gabriel Achilier -- #9 Jefferson Montero (60’ #17 Jaime Ayoví), #8 Édison Méndez (69’ #19 Luis Saritama), #14 Segundo Castillo, #16 Antonio Valencia (63’ #13 Cristian Suárez) -- #7 Michael Arroyo (86’ #4 Juan Carlos Paredes), #11 Christian Benítez (90’ #15 Jairo Campos)
Subs Not Used: #12 Adrian Bone, #6 Michael Quiñonez
Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Assistant Referees: William Torres (El Salvador), Juan Zumba (El Salvador)
Fourth Official: Terry Vaughn (USA)
Weather: 65 degrees and clear