For 45 minutes, the United States national team showed signs that new coach Jurgen Klinsmann's offensive philosophies might finally be sinking in. After the second half of Tuesday's loss to Ecuador, the team showed that Klinsmann still has plenty of work ahead of him.
New coach, same finishing problems
There is no disputing that the midfield possession has greatly improved under Klinsmann. Brek Shea has been a breath of fresh air since gaining minutes for the U.S. and along with Danny Williams, the wing duo created plenty of chances in the first half. Yet, for reasons few have been able to fully explain, the finishing remains poor.
Jozy Altidore has played well in a target forward role but in the end, strikers are judged on their goal production. In Klinsmann’s first five games, none of the U.S. forwards have been able to get on the scoresheet. Both of goals scored under the German’s tenure have been from the midfield, a trend that was also problematic under Bob Bradley’s helm.
Altidore believes that as he and his new flanking partner Clint Dempsey develop a chemistry, the goals will come.
“Maybe the sharpness isn’t there yet but it will come,” said Altidore, who went on to explain that Dempsey is a good fit in the advanced midfield No. 10 role due to his versatility as an offensive player.
“Support, someone who’s running off the ball and creating opportunities for you,” Altidore said.
Oguchi Oneywu has locked down a spot next to Bocanegra
Oneywu turned back the clock in Tuesday’s performance against Ecuador, looking sharp and providing the grit and steel that has been missing from the U.S. backline since he lost his starting place due to a devastating injury two years ago. Jurgen Klinsmann reiterated his stance on Klinsmann exclaiming, “He’s back!”
The Sporting Lisbon center back’s return was welcomed by players on both the attack and defense.
“He brings that intimidation factor, he’s a big dude,” Altidore explained. “I think he always takes on the best forward for every team that we play against and that’s important for us moving forward.”
He added, “I’m so happy to see him [out there], we’re all happy to see him. He went through a really tough time. He got injured but he never showed it. He’s a real confident guy and he just worked hard and came back. He’s at a level that we all know he can be and I think he can be even better in my opinion.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard thinks that Oneywu has been great in helping the defense maintain its form and brings a different dynamic to the team.
“I was impressed [with his performance], I was thinking during the game that he’s strong and wins headers but his timing for a big guy is really good,” Oneywu said. “He really dictated the line. His anticipation tonight I thought was fantastic.”
A statistical point of view
It looks like Ecuador took a page of out of Bradley's book as it secured a close victory despite being dominated on offense.
The U.S. took 18 shots, five of which were on target as opposed to the South American side having only five shots, with its only shot on target resulting in the game-winner.
The Stars and Stripes also had double the amount of corners (10-5) and in another rarity, Howard wasn't the hardest working keeper on the field. The Everton star didn't make a single save whereas Máximo Banguera stopped five.