The Copa America Centenario gave us a day of rest, and now it’s back with the knockout stage, opened by the United States and Ecuador, facing off in a quarter final.
Playing in Seattle, this feels like another “moment of truth” for Jurgen Klinsmann and his players. The German coach, one of the best strikers in the world during his playing days, hasn’t really been able to take the United States to the next level, at least in terms of achievements. He’s been at the helm since 2011. Won Gold Cup win, won fourth place finish, and one round of 16 appearance in the World Cup. Not bad, but is that really a step forward for the Americans?
Their football has been here and there during the Copa America, but it’s been impressive how they’ve bounced back from their loss to Colombia, thrashing Costa Rica and beating Paraguay. Clint Dempsey remains the anchor which keeps this ship in place, and it’ll be his ability to find room behind and in between Ecuador defenders that makes the United States dangerous. With Michael Bradley pushing for the midfield and the ability of Gyasi Zardes to create problems, this could be the match Klinsmann proves his process is working.
Ecuador still haven’t lost in the tournament. Their win over Haiti means nothing, but they did draw with a solid Peru team and held Brazil to a 0-0 draw, which despite the shape of the Brazilians, is something to take seriously. Ecuador don’t attack in numbers, instead relying on the two Valencia’s along with Jefferson Montero and Jaime Javier Ayovi to handle defenses. And while the United States are probably the most difficult team they’ve encountered so far just because of their relentless pace and structure, Ecuador have the talent to turn this Copa America appearance into a special one for them, not making it into the semifinals since 1993.