The United States maintained their perfect record under head coach Gregg Berhalter with a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in an international friendly.
Gyasi Zardes made it three wins from three matches since Berhalter’s appointment after breaking the deadlock nine minutes from time in Orlando.
Zardes’ long-range shot deflected off a defender and looped over Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez as Berhalter became just the second USA coach after Bob Bradley in 2007 to win each of his first three games.
The USA were flawless heading into the international fixture after wins against Panama and Costa Rica and they made a bright start on Thursday.
Paul Arriola, Christian Pulisic and Zardes were in the thick of the action against Ecuador, who had a lot to thank Dominguez for during the early exchanges.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 22, 2019
Ecuador – headlined by Manchester United veteran Antonion Valencia earning his 94th cap – slowly found their feet and started to get on the ball, though the USA should have taken the lead approaching the half-hour mark.
Some lovely interchange play between Zardes and Pulisic set up Arriola with a one-on-one chance just outside the six-yard box but Dominguez used his outstretched leg to thwart the Americans.
Berhalter’s men did put the ball in the net four minutes later, however, it was ruled out of for offside, though replays showed it was a very close call on Jordan Morris.
Ecuador – who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup like the United States – managed to get in behind before half-time thanks to Beder Caicedo, whose shot flashed just over the crossbar in a timely warning for the hosts.
The South American visitors defended well and they continued to do so in the second half amid a host of substitutions for both sides, which impacted the rhythm of the match.
Ecuador – who offered little in attack – looked comfortable in defence as they match appeared to be petering out for a draw.
However, Dominguez went from hero to villain after he was caught scrambling off his line by Zardes, who secured a third successive victory and clean sheet.
What does it mean? Berhalter and Co. on track
This is the last break before the USA’s CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign gets underway in June. There is work to do for the Americans but fans should be encouraged by a performance that was capped with a goal.
USA continue to impress
With Pulisic – who will join Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season – back in the starting line-up, there were more encouraging signs for the USA. The 20-year-old, like his team-mates, showed glimpses of their potential – especially in the first half – with plenty of pace and passing as they continue to rebuild under Berhalter.
McKennie carried off
It is not what the coaching staff and supporters wanted to see. The 20-year-old Schalke midfielder hurt his ankle and had to leave the field on a stretcher. The only blight on an otherwise positive night for the USA.
The USA welcome Chile to Houston on Tuesday, while Ecuador are on the road against Honduras on the same day.
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