The U.S. men’s national team returned to action Thursday night with the purpose of integrating Europe-based players and building on the foundation and tactical system set by new manager Gregg Berhalter. It did just that in a 1-0 win over Ecuador, and while the result was achieved in fortuitous manner, it’s all part of a process, with the manager and his players seeing the long game.
The guests, who were missing injured star forward Enner Valencia, offered very little going forward, with the U.S. carrying over 62% of the possession and outshooting Ecuador 5-1. Berhalter is trying to preach a possession-based style, looking to disorganize and break opponents down, and while the U.S. was able to accomplish that to a degree, its game-winning goal came in fluky circumstances.
Gyasi Zardes received a pass from Tim Ream before attempting a speculative shot from 25 yards. It took a deflection off defender Robert Arboleda, looping over goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, who it appeared could’ve done a bit more to try and keep it out. Nevertheless, it gave the U.S. the edge it needed, as it improved to 3-0-0 under Berhalter while not conceding a goal.
The win did come at a cost, as Weston McKennie was forced off with a nasty-looking ankle injury, the severity of which is not yet known.