The United States went into Jersey with momentum and out with a whimper.
The Stars and Stripes failed to build on Jurgen Klinsmann's first win as head coach as Ecuador claimed a 1-0 win over the U.S. Men's National Team in an international friendly at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday evening. Poor positioning by the arena's native son, Tim Ream, left Ecuadorian forward Jaime Ayoví clear to head home the match's only goal past a helpless Tim Howard in the 79th minute.
Chances came fast and furious for the US as they created five shots on target from 18 attempts on goal, including a flurry of shots in the first seven minutes that culminated with a Tim Chandler shot from the corner of the penalty box as well as DeMarcus Beasley's strike from distance in the 68th minute that landed perfectly in Ecuador 'keeper Maximo Banguera's midsection.
Another loss for the Yanks leaves Klinsmann with only one win in his five matches since replacing former coach Bob Bradley last summer. The U.S. have only two goals to show for that five-game effort, one of which came from the foot of Clint Dempsey in their win over Honduras at SunLife Stadium in Miami last Saturday.
Hot Hand. Even though he came on as a substitute in the 60th minute, the Yanks knew better than to let Jaime Ayovi run free. Ayovi, cousin of Ecuador team captain Walter Ayovi, opened the scoring for Ecuador in the 14th minute in a 2-0 win over Venezuela during South American World Cup qualifers last Friday.
Play of the Game: Ream's Gaffe. Ream, the young center back for the namesake club of the Yanks' home field on Tuesday, had waited a long time to redeem himself after his sloppy trip on Panama striker Blas Perez during the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June left him in the national doghouse. He's had to endure a coaching change and a public criticism of his form at the club level by Red Bulls teammate Rafael Marquez before finally getting a chance to make amends for his only transgression on the international stage.
Unfortunately for Ream, he'll need to wait a bit longer.
Klinsmann brought Ream on as a substitute in the 72nd minute for Yanks team captain and back line stalwart Carlos Bocanegra, only to see that decision be punished seven minutes later. Ream let Ayovi get a step ahead of him in the box as the Pachuca forward converted a cross from cousin Walter to head home what was far and away Ecuador's best (and some might argue only) scoring chance of the night.
“I was watching the man, and as I looked back I saw the ball coming," said Ream. "He was past me as soon as I took a step.”
To Ream's credit, Klinsmann picked up where Bradley left off by inviting the 24-year-old defender into the international camps even if it hasn't affected the depth charts. If Ream is going to develop his form for the international stages, the U.S. coach admits feeling comfortable with giving his young defender the necessary experience.
"It's a learning moment for Tim Ream, that he has to be in front of that guy and unbalance him," said Klinsmann. "Tim needs these moments and he needs these minutes on this level in order to learn. There's nothing bad about it."
Don't Mess With Texas. Even though the US didn't crack the score sheet, it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of Clint Dempsey. The Fulham midfielder and Texas native provided the spark for the Yanks' attack with prescient passing and a team-leading five shot attempts. His playmaking ability covered up for the absence of Landon Donovan and elevated his performance over his attacking partner in Jozy Altidore as well as second-half substitutes Juan Agudelo and Edson Buddle.
“I always put pressure on myself to perform," said Dempsey. "Whether I am a veteran or not, and I have always been that type of person. I go out and every game I try to make an impact and try to win it. So it doesn’t matter if it is my first cap or my 80th cap, I have the same mentality.”
The Other Red Bull. Ream's name will adorn the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Wednesday, but he wasn't the only Red Bull to make an appearance against Ecuador. Klinsmann sent Juan Agudelo in for a beaten-down Altidore at halftime, though Agudelo didn't quite capture the creativity he displayed against Honduras and in flashes at the international and club level to date. That did not concern the head coach of the Stars and Stripes, who confessed some of his intentions for his teenage phenom following the match.
"We see in Juan a very special talent coming through the ranks," said Klinsmann. "He's 18 years old and has a long way to go, but he's a tremendous talent. We have two plans for him. One is for him to be here and learn from the other players in this squad and get used to a higher intensity training. Number two is he will be part of an Olympic team that tries to get to London next summer, and that could be his first big international tournament. Going forward he can only learn and only improve."
20,707. That's the announced attendance for the US's debut at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. And much like the international friendly held at Citi Field in June, the crowd gave sizable support to the visiting Ecuador side.
Red Bull Arena came under fire for not enticing enough supporters to show support for the national side in their first visit to the soccer-specific arena, though selling out a midweek October friendly against a FIFA mid-carder isn't exactly a recipe for a guaranteed sellout. Even if Ecuador and Greece nearly sold out the much-larger Citi Field in July, the change in seasons and sporting interests remain a battle that soccer continues to fight as it gains prominence in this country.
The question remains how long U.S. Soccer will hold this decent-but-underwhelming crowd against the home of the New York Red Bulls in favor of the much-larger MetLife Stadium in nearby East Rutherford. MLS continues to churn out new stadiums while international sides with bonafide stars demand much larger venues (and the accompanying revenues). It could be a long time before Red Bull Arena welcomes the Stars and Stripes home.