The Copa America Centenario Quarterfinals begin on June 16th with the United States Men's National Team taking on Ecuador in Seattle.
The U.S. won Group A losing to Colombia 2-0 before beating Paraguay 1-0 and Costa Rica 4-0. Ecuador, in turn, finished runner-up in Group B tying Brazil 0-0, Peru 2-2, and defeating Haiti 4-0.
Prior to the Copa America, the USMNT defeated Ecuador 1-0 in a tune-up friendly. That match was essentially even, as possession was 50-50 and the U.S. had two shots on target vs Ecuador's one. Darlington Nagbe scored his first international goal with the help Bobby Wood to snatch a late winner for the Yanks.
Offensively, Ecuador is led by West Ham striker Enner Valencia. Valencia has two goals and two assists in three matches. He's an excellent dribbler with a very high work rate.
While Valencia is primarily a substitute for West Ham, his performance in this tournament suggests that he should be pushing for a place in the West Ham starting XI.
Manchester United veteran Antonio Valencia will anchor the midfield and frequently get involved in the attack. This Valencia is a good two-way midfielder who excels at passing and tackling.
Thirty-six year old Ecuadorian captain Walter Ayoví is integral to his team's defense. The left back doesn't get forward often, but instead acts as a solid stay-at-home defender. The potential matchup between him and Gyasi Zardes could be very important. Ayoví will have to counter Zardes' raw speed and strength with smart defending and good positioning.
Ecuador's coach Gustavo Quinteros deployed a 4-5-1 against Brazil and Peru, but switched to a 4-4-2 against Haiti. In the friendly against the USMNT Quinteros used a 4-4-2; it's unclear what formation the team will lineup in for this match.
Ecuador is a physical team, although this contest likely won't be as chippy as the U.S. v. Paraguay game.
Goalkeepers: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Esteban Dreer (Emelec)
Defenders: Gabriel Achiller (Emelec), Robert Arboleda (Universidad Catolica), Walter Ayovi (Monterrey), Frickson Erazo (Atletico Mineiro), Arturo Mina (Independiente), Juan Carlos Paredes (Watford), Cristian Ramirez (Ferencvaros)
Midfielders: Michael Arroyo (America), Fernando Gaibor (Emelec), Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas), Pedro Larrea (El Nacional), Fidel Martinez (Pumas UNAM), Angel Mena (Emelec), Jefferson Montero (Swansea City), Christian Noboa (FC Rostov), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Forwards: Jamie Ayovi (Godoy Cruz), Miller Bolaños (Gremio), Juan Cazares (Atletico Mineiro), Enner Valencia (West Ham)
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa / England), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Ethan Horvath (Molde / Norway)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin / Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City / England), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey / Mexico), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach / Germany), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana / Mexico), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland / England)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes / France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian / Scotland), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
The USMNT is considered the favorite, although the game is expected to be close. The U.S. has never lost at CenturyLink Field, but holds an all-time 3-5-5 record against Ecuador.
Jurgen Klinsmann's lineup is fairly predictable at this point, but with DeAndre Yedlin suspended, Klinsmann needs a new starting right-back.
Michael Orozco is the most likely candidate to replace Yedlin. Orozco came into the match against Paraguay when Yedlin was red carded and performed admirably. Other potential replacements include Edgar Castillo and Geoff Cameron. Castillo is typically a left-back and is left footed, but has experience playing right-back at the club level.
Geoff Cameron has featured for Stoke City at right-back frequently, but has developed a good partnership with John Brooks. Moving Cameron would require Klinsmann to bring in a new starting centerback such as Matt Besler or Steve Birnbaum. This option seems unlikely, but is a possibility if Klinsmann is uncomfortable with Orozco.
The loss of DeAndre Yedlin is quite significant and the Ecuadorians will certainly look to test the USMNT's new starting rightback.
While Yedlin will miss this quarterfinal, seven U.S. players are in danger of missing a potential semifinal. If Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Michael Orozco, Jermaine Jones, or Bobby Wood receive a yellow they would miss the semifinals.
Klinsmann seems unlikely to make changes based on potential suspensions as he said in his Facebook Q&A "It is what it is. I think when you go into a game [with a] yellow card, you cannot think about that, you got to play your game. If you collect a second one then it happens."
One unusual rule change that should be noted is that if this match is tied after 90 minutes, it will go directly into a penalty shootout instead of going to extra-time.
After starting the tournament using a 4-3-3, Klinsmann switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half against Costa Rica. He's expected to stick with a 4-4-2.
With Clint Dempsey finding his form, the battles between him and centerbacks Frickson Erazo and Arturo Mina will determine the success of the U.S. attack. At 6'3'' and 6'2'' respectively, Erazo and Mina are dominant in the air and will make it difficult for the USMNT to have success via crosses.
Before the tournament, Jurgen Klinsmann said that the team should make it to the semifinals. The U.S. is in an excellent position to do so and I expect the team to defeat Ecuador 2-1.