Harrison: Jurgen Klinsmann is finding wins and goals hard to come by in his first few months as coach of the US soccer team.
“It’s going to take time,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said after Tuesday night’s 1-0 exhibition loss to Ecuador dropped the Americans to 1-3-1 since the former German star and coach replaced Bob Bradley in late July. “People are going to ask questions, and that’s natural. But it’s still in the infant stages.”
Second-half substitute Jaime Ayovi beat defender Tim Ream to a cross and scored in the 79th minute, the only good chance Ecuador had.
“It’s a growing process and, obviously, also a couple of knocks that you have to accept,” Klinsmann said.
With no competitive games until the start of World Cup qualifying in June, Klinsmann is experimenting with players and formations. He generally wants the Americans to play higher upfield and use more width.
The US has just two goals since Klinsmann took over, tying Mexico 1-1 and losing to Costa Rica and Belgium 1-0 before last weekend’s 1-0 over Honduras.
“The first few results haven’t been great,” captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “It’s just frustrating, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
With the Americans using a 4-1-3-1 formation and sometimes a 4-3-3, they are attacking more than they did under the conservative Bradley.
“Especially in the first half, movement with the ball is better, is brighter collectively,” defender Steve Cherundolo said. “I think we have a better idea of what we want to do.”
Timmy Chandler, starting at left back, neutralized Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia before a pro-Ecuador crowd of 20,707 in the first US game at Red Bull Arena, which opened last year.
Ecuador didn’t have many threats until the goal. The play began on the flank and took advantage of Ream, who entered seven minutes earlier for Bocanegra.
Walter Ayovi received a throw-in and made a left-footed cross to Jaime Ayovi, a 60th-minute sub who got free about 8 yards from the goal. Jaime Ayovi headed the ball to the left of Howard for his fifth international goal—he also scored Friday as Ecuador opened World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 home win over Venezuela.
“I was watching the man, and as I looked back, I saw the ball coming,” Ream said, “and he was past me as soon as I took a step.”
A top rookie in Major League Soccer in 2010, Ream has struggled in his national team appearances.
“This is important, for these players to understand that one little thing can change a game and decide the game,” Klinsmann said. “That’s a learning moment for Tim Ream that he has to be in front of the guy, that he has to kind of unbalance him.”
So far, Klinsmann has not had Landon Donovan (strained quadriceps) and Clint Dempsey available for the same game. He also is missing Jose Torres (left foot surgery), Fabian Johnson (neck) and Stuart Holden (out until spring following his second knee surgery this year).
Klinsmann made just one change to his starting lineup from Saturday, putting Oguchi Onyewu in central defense for the first time since June and dropping Michael Orozco Fiscal. Following knee surgery in October 2009, Onyewu had struggled to regain his form until becoming a regular starter with Sporting Lisbon this season.
“He’s back, and that’s awesome to see,” Klinsmann said. “He’s getting his rhythm, and his presence is amazing.”
Like the US team, the 6-foot-4 Onyewu is a work in progress.
“There’s no substitute to playing games, and fortunately I’ve found myself in a good situation with Sporting,” he said. “You get more confident, and you get more comfortable with yourself.”