USA will look to continue to build on their promising start under new manager Gregg Berhalter, as they take on Ecuador on Thursday in a friendly.

The United States Men’s National Team will be hoping to pick up their third victory under new boss Gregg Berhalter, when they face off against South American nation Ecuador at the Orlando City Stadium.

Appointed as the USMNT manager in December, Berhalter started his tenure with a 3-0 win over Panama in January, which was followed by a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica a few days later.

With the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup just a few months away, USA will be aiming to make the most of the upcoming fixtures Ecuador and Chile to get an idea of their best team under the new boss, sort out their tactics and build momentum with a win.

Ecuador come into the friendly encounter on Thursday on the back of consecutive victories over Peru and Panama in November last year. La Tricolor have picked up three victories in their last five matches (D1 L1), with the only defeat coming against World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar in October.

With just three more matches left before Ecuador begin their 2019 Copa America campaign – the South Americans take on Honduras and Mexico after playing USA, Hernan Dario Gomez’s men will be hoping to make them count and generate some much-needed steam heading into the summer’s event.

Team News & Tactics

USA

Berhalter, for the first time since taking over the reins of the team, has a full-strength squad at his disposal for the upcoming set of fixtures. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen had to be replaced by Jesse Gonzalez after being injured, while talented young forwards Timothy Weah and Josh Sargent haven’t been named either and will instead be joining up with the USMNT U23s.

Ethan Horvath, who plays for Belgian outfit Club Brugge will line up between the sticks for the home side. Tyler Adams is set to be thrust into the right-back role, the manager confirmed. Fulham centre-back Tim Ream, returning to the national team setup for the first time since 2017, could start in defence along with Matt Miazga, while Daniel Lovitz starts at left-back.

Seasoned campaigner Michael Bradley made a solid impression in the holding midfield role during the previous set of friendlies and should continue to hold the position against Ecuador. Weston McKennie will take up the box-to-box role in the middle of the park for the USMNT, with Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic set to be the creator-in-chief starting in the No.10 role.

Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yeldin is set to be tried out in an advanced position on the right flank, the manager has revealed, while the left side of attack could be a toss-up between Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola, but the former could get the nod owing to his recent form. Spearheading the attack for USA will be Columbus Crew striker Gyasi Zardes.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Horvath; Adams, Ream, Miazga, Lovitz; McKennie, Bradley; Yedlin, Pulisic, Morris; Zardes;

Ecuador

Hernan Dario Gomez has his first-choice squad available for the upcoming fixtures, although regulars Miller Bolanos and Jefferson Montero are the most notable absentees. An aggressive, physical outfit, Ecuador are likely to line up in a 4-5-1 formation against the USMNT at Orlando.

Juan Carlos Paredes is the obvious choice at right-back, while the left-back slot could be taken up by Cristian Ramirez. Both the full-backs are known for their attacking play and could be key outlets going forward La Tricolor. Gabriel Achilier and Robert Arboleda should start at the heart of the defence, ahead of Xavier Arreaga, with Alexander Dominguez between the sticks.

The holding midfield role in the starting XI is likely to fall to Carlos Gruezo, who is known for his tough-tackling nature and has the capability to kickstart attacks from deep in the centre of the park. Support for the 23-year-old will come from Jefferson Orejuela and Jhegson Mendez in the middle, with the former offering the box-to-box running.

The right and left wings for Ecuador will be taken up by the Ibarra brothers – Renato and Romario respectively. With pace to burn and skills on the ball, the duo can be tricky customers to defend against, making up for an interesting battle against Tyler Adams who will be playing as a makeshift right-back for USMNT. Enner Valencia is expected to lead the line for Ecuador.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Dominguez; Paredes, Achilier, Arboleda, Ramirez; Renato Ibarra, Orejuela, Gruezo, Mendez, Romario Ibarra; Enner Valencia;

Key Stats

  • Ecuador have the slightest of the edges in head-to-head record against USA. The South American nation have won five of their 14 matches against the USMNT, while losing four.
  • The last time these two sides met was in 2016, in the quarterfinals of the Copa America, USA emerged victorious, beating Ecuador 2-1.
  • Enner Valencia is the all-time second-highest goalscorer for the Ecuador national team. The former West Ham United forward has 27 goals in 46 international caps.
  • USA have made a solid start to life under new manager Gregg Berhalter, picking up two wins in two matches. They have scored five goals in those matches, while conceding none.
  • Michael Bradley is the most-capped active player for the USMNT. The midfielder has featured 143 times for the national team, scoring 17 goals.

Player to Watch

Christian Pulisic

USMNT's bonafide star (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

USMNT’s bonafide star (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Without a doubt the biggest star in the USA squad, Christian Pulisic’s season with Borussia Dortmund hasn’t been at his usual level. The 20-year-old has lost his starting spot on the flanks to Jadon Sancho and Raphael Guerreiro this term, meaning he has featured just 25 times in all competitions, chipping in with 5 goals and assists apiece.

Pulisic wasn’t part of the first two matches of the Berhalter era, but is back in the USMNT squad for the upcoming fixtures. All eyes will be on him as the new manager looks to build a team around the 20-year-old ahead of the summer’s Gold Cup.

In 23 matches for the national team, Pulisic has found the back of the net 9 times and set up 7 more. And the 20-year-old, who will be joining Premier League giants Chelsea in the summer, will be looking to make an impact and lead his team to a win against Ecuador this week.

Prediction

USA 2-1 Ecuador

Both the teams come into the game on the back of two consecutive victories, albeit against weaker oppositions. Given that the match will be one of the last few they play before crucial events in the summer – the Gold Cup for USA and the Copa America for Ecuador, it will carry a lot of importance, rather than being just a throwaway friendly encounter.

It promises to be a tightly-contested encounter at the Orlando City Stadium, but the USMNT’s recent defensive resilience should see them emerge victorious by a narrow margin against their South American opponents.

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