Jurgen Klinsmann has called for his United States side to take the game to Ecuador in its Copa America Centenario quarterfinal at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field on Thursday. After an opening loss to Colombia, the U.S. rebounded with wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay to finish at the top of Group A.
Their reward is a quarterfinal with an Ecuador side that the U.S. beat 1-0 in a friendly just last month. But with Ecuador missing Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia and captain Walter Ayovi on that occasion, Klinsmann has described Thursday’s encounter as a “nail-biter” and a “50-50 game.”
Klinsmann is adamant that he wants his team to take the initiative — a message he has preached from the start of his almost five-year reign but that his team has often struggled to fulfill. And that starts with the defensive line pushing up.
“I think it's important that you stick to your beliefs and what you want to build," Klinsmann said at Wednesday's press conference. “Obviously you adjust to certain moments in the game. If it requires that we drop a second, we can do that too. We can hit them with counter breaks the same way they might want to do it with us.
“But in general, our back line is doing a good job so far by keeping higher up to go eye to eye with [the opposition]. We tell them, tomorrow, be courageous, go at them. It's a 90 minute battle.”
Klinsmann has gone against type in this tournament by naming an unchanged lineup for three successive games for the first time in his tenure. But that will have to change against Ecuador, with right-back DeAndre Yedlin ruled out through suspension after picking up a red card in the 1-0 win Saturday against Paraguay. Michael Orozco, who came on following Yedlin’s dismissal, appears the most likely replacement.
Yedlin’s speed will be a major loss against an Ecuador team that has plenty of it in attacking areas, particularly on its left flank through Swansea City’s Jefferson Montero. After recording draws against Brazil and Peru, Ecuador got the win it required against Haiti by an emphatic 4-0 margin. The speed of Gustavo Quinteros’ side was in full evidence in goals from both Antonio and Enner Valencia as well as Jaime Ayovi and Christian Noboa.
Already, Ecuador’s achievement in this tournament is a historic one. It is the first time the country has made it to the last eight of the Copa America since 1997. It is now seeking an even more momentous achievement: a first knockout-round victory in any tournament outside of Ecuador.
But Ecuador will go into the game without forward Miller Bolaños, who suffered a muscle injury after scoring in a 2-2 draw with Peru. Jaime Ayovi got the nod to start up front alongside Enner Valencia against Haiti, but he was withdrawn at halftime as Quinteros sought greater defensive solidity through attacking midfielder Juan Cazares. The indications from the Ecuador coach are that Cazares will start against the United States.
Kickoff Time: 9:30 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1, UniMás, Univision Deportes
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1, Univision, Univision Deportes