If not for this being Landon Donovan's final USMNT game, I would view tonight's USA vs. Ecuador friendly as an irritant. The only way a USMNT player can really impact his future with the team this week is to lash out at the coaches and get themselves thrown off the team. I just have a hard time seeing the point of two friendlies this close to the World Cup and this far from the next actual competition (the 2015 Gold Cup).
However, it is Donovan's final USMNT game, and on the plus side it's a quality opponent in Ecuador. As such, I'm paying more attention than I otherwise might (which is another way of saying I will watch the KC-Chicago game on MLS Live tomorrow morning). Will we see Donovan and Jurgen Klinsmann blow up on the sidelines, or will we continue to parse every single time they so much as glance at each other? Will youngsters like Alfredo Morales or Maryland's own Joe Gyau push themselves up the pecking order? What about NASL call-up Miguel Ibarra, or getting a look at left back Greg Garza (who should have gotten all of Edgar Castillo's call-ups last year)? See, it's interesting! It just took a second for me to come around.
Kickoff Time: 7:00pm Eastern (note: the broadcast starts at 6:40)
Venue: Rentschler Field (Hartford, CT)
TV/Streaming: ESPN - not ESPN2 or U or Classic or The Ocho - is carrying this game. Online, you can stream it via ESPN3.com, which is confusingly called WatchESPN instead of ESPN3. I'd be surprised, but these are also the people that pioneered having shouting dopes take up egregiously incorrect positions to stir up outrage (not to mention the mess that is Sportscenter) so there you go. At least their production of soccer games has stayed at or near the level they hit during the World Cup.
If you prefer Spanish, UniMas will have the game, which means it will also stream on the Univision Deportes app.
Projected USMNT starting XI: I usually have a hard time getting into Klinsi's head, so this is probably going to be wrong. We know that Brad Guzan will get the full 90 in goal tonight, and Donovan is supposed to get the start and play 30 minutes. Ahead of Guzan, I'm looking for DeAndre Yedlin at right back, a central pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco, and Garza at left back.
Klinsmann has only called in one actual defensive midfielder for these games, and that's Morales. I expect him to play at the base of a midfield triangle with Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya ahead of him. Up front, I think we'll see Gyau on the right, Donovan on the left, and Jozy Altidore playing as a center forward.
Match previews: Kevin McCauley wrote a preview for SB Nation, while Ryan Rosenblatt talked about what Donovan's career has meant to him. Meanwhile, Klinsmann doubled down on his doubts about whether Donovan has made the most of his talents because, apparently, he just couldn't resist. Maybe the most important piece, though, is Jeff Carlisle's in-depth interview with Donovan.
Oh, and in case you're like me and have forgotten who was on the roster, here is the whole roster.
Prediction: Ecuador is a good team, but like the US they've left off quite a few big names. I see Donovan getting a goal because the dude has a sense of occasion, and for some reason I think Joe Corona has a goal in him today as well. Ecuador will pull one back late on, but the USMNT will take this one 2-1.
What are you drinking? Today required a far earlier start than I'm used to, so it may be coffee brewed with beans from Ceremony Coffee Roasters, the fightin' pride of Annapolis, MD. If I'm not dragging at kickoff, though, I've got a bottle of Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout with (part of) my name on it.