USMNT vs. Ecuador score: McKennie taken off via stretcher, Zardes nets winner for the Stars and Stripes
The U.S. won its first friendly under Gregg Berhalter with a full player pool
It was hard to take much from the United States men's national team's two friendlies earlier in the year as the players were all MLS based. But on Thursday in Orlando, new coach Gregg Berhalter had pretty much every player at his disposal to give fans a look at what's to come, the players that may feature in the Gold Cup and more. The U.S. beat Ecuador 1-0 on a Gyasi Zardes goal, but it wasn't all positive as the team could be without one of its key young players who came off injured. Here are three takeaways from the match.
All eyes on McKennie
Schalke star midfielder Weston McKennie started in the middle of the park and was stretchered off in the second half after an injury. The rising star had his left ankle twist when planting and being challenged. Here's a look at the injury (Warning: The image may disturb some):
McKennie is expected to have an MRI and we'll have to wait and see how he progresses. If it's a long-term injury, it's a massive blow for the United States and especially his German club. McKennie is looked at by many as the second best young player behind Christian Pulisic, so if he's out for an extended amount of time, someone will have to slide in for him moving forward, potentially for the Gold Cup. And for Schalke, in the middle of the relegation battle, losing him could prove costly. He's been playing right back due to injuries in the squad and if he's out for a significant amount of time, it will put his struggling club in a tough spot as it fights for survival. We'll have to wait and see exactly what the extent of his injury is, but it initially didn't look good.
Berhalter shows his confidence in Zardes
Gyasi Zardes scored the winner with a fortunate strike in the second half that somehow found its way into the goal. And though there was plenty of luck involved, a goal is a goal. He had started the season off well in MLS with the Columbus Crew, where he was coached by Berhalter, and was able to grab the winner in Orlando. Here's the strike:
One would expect Jozy Altidore to be the main man in attack for this team this summer at the Gold Cup, but if Zardes continues his goal-scoring form it's going to be hard to deny him quality minutes.
Tyler Adams at right back looks like a smart move
Berhalter played talented young midfielder Tyler Adams at right back, and he put in a fine showing. His movement was fluid, his passing was crisp, and he combined well with McKennie for most of the game. He wasn't just stuck at right back though, moving inside quite a bit.
Now, a natural midfielder, he probably isn't thrilled with playing right back but credit to him for playing well, looking natural in the position and showing his versatility. He's too good to be the starting right back, especially with DeAndre Yedlin in the position, but that flexibility gives Berhalter a lot to work with moving forward with the young RB Leipzig player.
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