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US Fan Reaction: Ecuador Defeats United States 1-0
Being a fan of the New York Red Bulls isn't all bad. It's more than prepared me for feeling disappointed while watching matches at Red Bull Arena.
Ecuador defeated the United States 1-0 on Tuesday evening. A match recap can be found here.
The atmosphere: Was unlike anything I've experienced while attending at match at Red Bull Arena. The American supporters made the all-too familiar march into the arena roughly 30 minutes or so before kickoff. The arena was mostly empty as those supporters made their way to the South Ward, as others with tickets were seemingly "having a drink elsewhere" as ESPN's Ian Darke put it. Once the arena began to fill, a sea of yellow surrounded the US supporters, and it was clear that the United States were to be without much of a home field advantage. In fact, there's no question that the Ecuador fans in attendance largely outnumbered those cheering on the guys in red shirts.
Don't get me wrong. For the most part, the United States fans in attendance loudly out-cheered the supporters rooting on the "visitors," but it was quite the "strangers in your home land" experience for all US fans in and around Red Bull Arena on this night.
The big story: Many United States Soccer fans, and not just casual viewers who tune into a handful of games a year, are in a bit of a panic regarding the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Team USA has unquestionably struggled to put the ball in the net with Klinsmann running the show (two goals in five matches) despite showcasing impressive attacking form. In short, the United States have been poor creating and cashing in opportunities in the final third, and the team was absolutely abysmal in that area of the pitch during the second half of Tuesday's contest. The "we're going to win 2-1" chant which arose from the South Ward following Ecuador's goal was more wishful thinking than a statement of belief. There was never really a feeling that the US was going to find an equalizer during the final ten minutes of play.
I'm never a fan of a "results really don't matter now" mantra. Nothing builds confidence and chemistry like wins. With that said, fans should take a step back and examine the big picture. Klinsmann made it clear upon taking the reigns that he was going to tinker with numerous lineups in order to find one which clicked with his system, and he was without numerous lineup mainstays on Tuesday, including Landon Donovan and Jose Torres. Truth be told, Klinsmann hasn't had a fully fit lineup since taking the job.
Things started out promising for the US on Tuesday, but the team gassed as the game went on, and then became visibly frustrated once Ecuador sat back in defense. The trio of Brek Shea, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore is undeniably a solid one, one which created scoring chances for the US almost immediately into the match. Those three can't do it all, however, and the likes of Kyle Beckerman and Danny Williams have yet to show they can consistently make the grade at this level.
Ream: December 31, 2011 may wind up being the best New Year's Eve defender Tim Ream has ever celebrated, as it will mean the end of what has been a very rough year for the young man who was not-too-long-ago believed to be a possible anchor for the US back line. Ream has made several gaffes with the Red Bulls during the 2011 MLS campaign, and he played himself out of the US lineup during the Gold Cup. Ream made his way onto his home field in the 72nd minute of Tuesday's match, having an opportunity to impress his new boss.
He didn't. Ream found himself in a one-on-one defending situation inside the penalty area just seven minutes after taking the pitch, and he failed to adequately cover Ecuador's Jaime Ayovi. Ayovi did well to get into position against the ball-watching Ream en route to heading in the game's lone goal, but a defender playing at the international level must do better in this situation ten times out of ten.
Man of the match: It wasn't all bad times for the US defense on Tuesday. With Michael Orozco Fiscal out of the lineup, possibly for good, Oguchi Onyewu halted attacks and even distributed the ball well in the team's losing effort. He definitely earned a spot in the US starting lineup for at least the team's next couple of matches.
Timmy Chandler deserves an honorable mention here. The right-footed Chandler again played left back on Tuesday, and he all-but shut down Antonio Valencia until the Man Utd. player was subbed out in the second half. Chandler may very well be the left back US fans have been dreaming of for years.
Overall: The United States have not played well enough to win matches under Klinsmann. There's no denying that. Still, no knowledgeable person ever claimed this would be a seamless transition. The US is unquestionably a different team than what we saw over the summer, and there's been plenty positive moments for the squad during the current dry spell. I want to see wins as much as the next fan, but save the panic for if/when the United States struggles in 2012.
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