ORLANDO, Fla. – Following the US national team’s narrow 1-0 victory over Ecuador Thursday night at Orlando City Stadium, head coach Gregg Berhalter called his squad’s performance a good starting point.
A Gyasi Zardes 81st-minute goal decided the game, but for Berhalter – in his third game in charge of the USMNT – he was pleased with his player’s efforts.
“Overall, when you look at the amount of information we’ve given the guys in the last two days, we’re pleased with the performance,” Berhalter told reporters after the game. “I think it’s a good starting point for this group. The defending was really good, so we’re pleased.”
The US were able to limit Ecuador to only one shot throughout the entire game, but offensively, Berhalter’s men were only able to tally two shots on target themselves, with the latter being the difference maker. Hernan Dario Gomez's set-up for Ecuador to defend deep presented challenges for the USMNT.
“When you look at the positioning of Ecuador it became challenging to break them down,” said Berhalter. “Very compact. I thought in the first half we created some good moves and were able to penetrate around the edge and get the ball in front of goal. We’re unlucky not to score with Paul [Arriola] in the first half and created a number of half-chances that should have amounted to more.”
Zardes, who was part of Berhalter’s January camp and played the entire game, said the week leading up to Thursday’s game was similar to the previous camp, only this time it was making sure the newcomers to the set-up were caught up with the system Berhalter is trying to implement.
“We had three days to prepare into obtaining a lot of information from the coaching staff and ultimately, I thought we did a great job tonight,” said Zardes.
The Columbus Crew SC forward scored off an Ecuador turnover when Tim Ream won the ball in the center of the field, who then served Zardes who struck from the edge of the 18-yard box for the eventual goal.
“During the training sessions, we were looking for that open space,” said Zardes. “So I checked my shoulder and was screaming for the ball. Sure enough Tim Ream found me and I was open.”
While the night was mostly positive, injury concerns could dampen the takeaways from the win. In particular, Weston McKennie left the match in the 68th minute after suffering a left ankle injury. Berhalter said following the match that the Schalke midfielder will undergo an MRI before an official update on his status is determined.
Above all, Berhalter felt his players embraced the process despite only having three days to learn it.
“I credited the guys in the locker room,” said Berhalter. “I’m really proud of the effort, I’m really proud of the openness to try things and to try to execute the movements. If some of the timing is off, that’s all right as long as they recognize the moments and [are] trying to do it."