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USA impotent under Klinsmann in loss to Ecuador

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

Five games in, the United States national team's Jurgen Klinsmann era has been full of surprises. Unfortunately for the new head coach, they have not been the kind that either he or USA fans would have wanted.

When Klinsmann became head coach two months ago to replace Bob Bradley, it was anticipated that he would usher in an exciting new regime full of drama. Given the gung-ho approach he took in leading the Germany national team to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, many predicted that early life under Klinsmann would resemble a Wild West shootout.

There may be some growing pains, so the theory went, but it would certainly not be boring.

Yet after Tuesday night's 1-0 defeat to Ecuador at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., the USA has managed just two goals in seven and a half hours of play since Klinsmann came in, while compiling a record of three defeats, one draw, and a solitary win against Honduras.

All those games have been friendlies, and with World Cup qualifying not beginning until next year and not reaching its most important stage until 2013, the idea that results are not the most important factor right now does carry some weight.

However, the failure to put the ball in the net with any consistency is a pressing concern and one which Klinsmann will be keen to remedy as soon as possible. He was anointed as the USA's soccer savior long before he even took the job, but those who were so swift to highlight Bradley's failings after the 2010 World Cup may now consider that much of that may have been down to personnel rather than lack of tactical knowledge.

[Photos: Ecuador upsets United States]

The fact remains that Bradley, whose approach was derided as being overtly negative, oversaw a team that scored five goals in four games against World Cup opposition, while Klinsmann's troops have scored two in five against Mexico, Honduras, and three teams not good enough to make the tournament.

Klinsmann remains upbeat, but privately he surely would admit that he hoped for more from his opening batch of games.

"We are really getting a lot out of the games," Klinsmann said. "We see so many elements out of the players. We know now what the players can bring to the table. I saw some positive stuff, but the result was not there.

"In the first half we controlled it completely and didn't give them any chances and had five or six ourselves. Teams like Ecuador are a great experience for us because if you make one mistake you get punished, and that is what happened."

That mistake came in the 70th minute, as young defender Tim Ream gave Jaime Ayovi too much room and the Ecuador striker headed a cross past Tim Howard for the only goal.

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Despite enjoying plenty of possessions, the USA was unable to capitalize and without the injured Landon Donovan did not have the inspiration needed to fight back. Donovan's condition is not a serious, an ankle complaint that will recover in time for the Los Angeles Galaxy's MLS derby with Chivas USA on Sunday, but more than ever he is needed by his national team.

Without its stars Klinsmann's squad is a shallow one, with Stuart Holden's long-term injury layoff not helping matters any. Clint Dempsey remains a shining light, yet there is little in the way of other game-changers, a world removed from the talent Klinsmann had to call on with Germany.

Donovan put the defeat down to fatigue but the excuses are starting to wear thin. "A lot of it came down to guys just being tired," Donovan told ESPN. "So often these games come down to one play."

USA looks strong enough in midfield, and some of the defensive issues are being resolved. Timmy Chandler, once thought to be the long-term answer at right back, may actually be the solution on the left side of defense based on Tuesday's evidence.

In the center though, Ream is still too raw to rely on and any optimism over Oguchi Onyewu's improved form must be counterbalanced by fears over whether he can remain healthy, having suffered a debilitating knee injury in 2009.

And what about that attacking lineup of little current productivity? Juan Agudelo's scoring touch has deserted him; the sophomore blues perhaps? Jozy Altidore started the season promisingly with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar but has not scored in his last seven USA games.

It has been an incredible 22 games since the USA scored more than twice in the same match, and that was a 3-1 victory over Australia in the side's final World Cup warm-up last June.

Germany meanwhile, clinched qualification for the 2012 European Championships in record time and finished Group A on Tuesday having scored 34 goals in its 10 games.

Klinsmann is fast realizing that his new assignment is not so simple.

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