Propelled by a solid performance by Columbus Crew SC captain Wil Trapp and a game-winning goal from Black & Gold striker Gyasi Zardes, the U.S. Men’s National Team recorded its third-straight victory under former Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter as the Americans defeated Ecuador 1-0 in a friendly match on Thursday at Orlando City Stadium, in Orlando, Florida.
“It felt great to have the opportunity to help the National Team with another goal,” Zardes said after the game. “I think the team did really well, especially considering the short time we had to prepare for this match. It was a phenomenal job from the group.”
Against the South Americans, Berhalter could, for the first time since his hiring, count on the European-based top talent of the country, including star midfielder Christian Pulisic, center back John Brooks and midfielder Tyler Adams, who was experimented at the right back spot.
With Trapp and Zardes in the lineup, the Crew was the only team to have two starters in the American side. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was also part of Berhalter’s initial roster, but he had to withdraw from the list due to a minor right knee injury.
Zardes had a night of ups and downs and some moments of struggles in the game until the 81st minute, when he received the ball outside the penalty box and fired an uncommon long-distance shot which deflected off an Ecuadoran defender and looped over goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez to become the hero of the American victory. It has his seventh goal for the Stars & Stripes in 43 matches.
Trapp was arguably the best American player during the 58 minutes he remained on the field. The Crew captain had a noticeable presence in the center of the field and mastered on ball distribution, especially when connecting with Paul Arriola on the left wing. He was replaced by Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley.
Zardes was the second Crew player to score a game-winning goal for his National Team in just two days as winger Justin Meram was the difference on Iraq’s 1-0 win over Syria on Wednesday.
The Americans are set for another matchup with a South American team as they will face reigning Copa America champions Chile on Tuesday, March 26, at the BBVA Compass Stadium, in Houston, Texas.