One change to the starting lineup? One change in the starters between two meaningless friendlies held four days apart? That doesn't even make sense if you're trying to replicate an actual tournament. Lineups change all the time in group stages due to injury, cards, strategy - and that's with teams where the coaches pretty much know exactly who can do what, when, and where. Maybe Klinsmann does have a top 18 pretty much set already, but still. No wonder he made so many changes at halftime - he had to. But four changes at halftime doesn't replicate a tournament situation either, for obvious reasons, so what's the thinking here? I don't get it.
I don't mind this loss - partly because the silver linings are so bright. At the risk of sounding as blinkered as Klinsmann, I thought we played a better game than against Honduras - doubly reassuring, because Ecuador was so clearly better than that Honduras team.
The disparity between shots and shots on goal favored the US, and so did possession. With no Landon Donovan or Stuart Holden (or, if you prefer, no Jermaine Jones and little Michael Bradley), that's fairly reassuring. Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman might not exactly be Pele and Garrincha, but the scoreline and stats tell me they were doing their primary jobs - controlling the middle and not letting the other guys have good shots.
Although credit for that probably goes to Onyewu. I haven't been this overjoyed to see a familiar face make a comeback since Freddy Adu against Mexico - okay, not a spectacular example. But Gooch was worth the price of admission. Am I going to sit here and complain that his injury history makes him an optimistic choice to command our defense through qualifying and into 2014? Not when I consider the alternatives, I'm not. He'll only be 32 or so, assuming his knees aren't 75.
Anyone else up for the concept that Spector is 25, Ream is 24, and it's silly to just completely write them off from the national team yet? No? Not even if I point out that Omar Gonzalez and George John have each had horrible mistakes in the last two MLS Cups? Okay, fine. Let's just have a back line of Gooch, Bocanegra, and cortisone.
Should we be worried about our attack? Of course, but when have we not? Who among us has not looked at the incumbent striker, bemoaned his current form, then been unable to suggest a viable replacement? Right now Altidore's club form is pretty good, which puts him ahead of nearly all the other candidates. I'm really, really starting to miss Charlie Davies.
I'm trying to judge Klinsmann based on what he's trying to do, not on what I want him to do - no one's asking me to coach nothin'. So this article from Alex Hoyt in the Atlantic is fascinating, captain.
This was the lineup for the Honduras game, obviously, which explains both the "Michael" and the back line up at the center line. But look at what he's asking. Cherundolo is given the entire right side as his bailiwick. Brek Shea is apparently warned out of the penalty area. Without Clint Dempsey, nothing goes through the middle. Danny Williams is apparently capable of, or asked to do, everything. And we're still using the single forward that worked so well for us in 2006.
Oh, and if you read the article, Dempsey's also supposed to help win the ball back when the US loses possession, on the grounds that Lionel Messi does. This is called "not being a classic Number 10."
It's not working yet, of course. I'm also not sure how it changes when guys like Donovan, Holden and Torres return. And it sure doesn't address what happens when the guy next to Bocanegra turns out to be not quite ready for international play. Writing "TIM" in huge letters is not a substitute for a defensive strategy. Although in fairness "and then the goalkeeper performs a miracle" has been an accepted US tactic since 1990.
Will it ever work? I hate the single forward with the heat of a thousand lightning bugs - it just makes the other guys' job way too easy. Brian McBride Himself could only make it work sporadically for us, and not at all when the opponents were World Cup finalists.
However, if you were to ask me why two lousy forwards would be more effective than one lousy forward and one talented midfielder - I'd probably say Edson Buddle wouldn't be lousy if he had a second forward to take the heat off him, we'd lose three games in a row, and BigSoccer would be calling for my head.
But so much of what the US can do is limited by the talent pool, it pains me in my tiny little heart to see us hindering ourselves tactically as well. (Now watch us win the Hex again.)