USA 1, Ecuador 1 | International Friendly Match Recap
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — It was almost a perfect ending to this story.
In his farewell match for the US national team on a cool October evening in central Connecticut, Landon Donovan came oh-so-close to putting the icing on his proverbial cake with a goal.
But, after Jozy Altidore superbly put him through on goal with a 25th-minute backheel with the US leading 1-0, Donovan’s low shot across goal agonizingly careened off the post and was cleared by a frantic Ecuadorian defense.
And that was that.
Some 16 minutes later, Donovan’s national team career ended amidst hugs from teammates and a standing ovation from the 36,265 fans at Rentschler Field when he was replaced by Joe Corona.
Unfortunately, Donovan’s swansong didn't end in victory, as Mix Diskerud’s early opener was cancelled out by Enner Valencia’s superb 87th-minute equalizer.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann kept with eight starters from the squad that won 1-0 against the Czech Republic in Prague in September. The only changes: handing Greg Garza his first start for the USMNT at as a replacement for Fabian Johnson at left back; bringing in DeAndre Yedlin for Julian Green, who flew back to Germany earlier in the week with a rib injury; and Donovan, who started up front with Altidore in a 4-4-2.
The US started brightly with Diskerud controlling the midfield and Joe Gyau and Yedlin creating chances from the wings. And that early dominance was rewarded with the goal.
Donovan broke down the left sideline and played a lofted cross to the back post. Altidore misplayed it as he attempted to volley on goal, but was able to gain control and lay the ball off to Yedlin, who quickly found Diskerud near the penalty spot.
Diskerud stroked a first-time finish past Maximo Banguera for his fourth international goal.
The wide-open play continued through the first half, with both teams carving out chances.
Donovan had a header from close range saved in the 9th minute, Altidore dragged a shot wide in the 17th – and then came Donovan’s denial by the post in the 25th after Altidore’s delightful lay-off.
Ecuador had opportunities of their own, as Brad Guzan was forced into three sprawling saves in a one-minute span in the 27th minute. It all began with a save on Renato Ibarra, who broke clear on goal after Timmy Chandler fanned on a clearance.
On the ensuing corner, Guzan came up with the goods again, diving at his near post to save a header. Moments later, the U.S. failed to clear its lines, and Guzan was forced to make a sprawling save on a curling Cristhian Noboa effort from 20 yards.
From a US perspective, the evening was marred by an early injury to Gyau, who came up limp in the 21st minute with what was reported to be a left knee sprain, giving way to Bobby Wood. He was later seen on the sideline on crutches and a massive ice pack on his knee.
Over the last 25 minutes, the visitors carved chance after chance, as Valencia, Cazares and second-half sub Joao Plata found plenty of space in the American third, forcing US substitutes Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez to turn, chase and scramble into position more than Klinsmann would have wanted.
Valencia eventually made them pay in the 87th minute, as his viciously dipping, swerving shot from 20 yards out left Guzan rooted to his line.
The Americans had a golden chance in the final moments, when Wood found himself alone on goal, but he chose to pass across the face instead of finishing himself and the Ecuadorian defense cleared the line.
The U.S. play again on Tuesday against Honduras in Boca Raton, Florida (8 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas).