What's that, the United States is playing an opponent from CONMEBOL on the Pacific coast during a big international soccer tournament? Can't say that's happened before. This time the USMNT's formidable yellow-clad foe is Ecuador, as the knockout phase of the Copa America Centenario begins tonight. The Yanks won Group A after Colombia lost to Costa Rica, while Ecuador finished second in Group B to first-place Peru. Brazil shockingly failed to qualify (with Dunga getting the axe as a result), so at least it's not a straight rematch of that game from 22 summers ago.
The USMNT comes into this one missing a bit of speed from their lineup, following the two quick yellow cards DeAndre Yedlin suffered in the second half of Saturday's win over Paraguay. The first option for Jurgen Klinsmann is likely Michael Orozco or Edgar Castillo stepping into Yedlin's place, though switching Fabian Johnson from left back to the right (and putting Orozco/Castillo on the left) may not be ruled out. Heck, even D.C. United's own Steve Birnbaum could get a run at outside back (it's happened before). However, going up against an Ecuador attack that includes Jefferson Montero (Swansea City) and Enner Valencia (West Ham United), the latter of whom leads the team in goals and shots taken, would be a formidable task.
The good news is there is a bit of age in the lineup, in the form of left back Walter Ayovi. The Monterey player turns 37 in August and playing on the temporary sod laid over turf could present a problem or two for him, particularly if Gyasi Zardes can use his speed and athleticism to run him even more ragged. Center back Gabriel Achilier will return from suspension after sitting out los Amarillos' 4-0 win over Haiti, so Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood will have to battle him and presumably Arturo Mina, the latter of whom only has a dozen caps to his name. The middle of the field will see Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya against Carlos Gruezo (who joined FC Dallas this year), Christian Noboa and Antonio Valencia, who many will recognize from his service with Manchester United.
Things will not get any easier for whomever makes it out of the first quarterfinal; the winner of this match will play the winner of Venezuela-Argentina next Tuesday in Houston. So if the upset of the year doesn't happen, this means the Argentines, who lead in goals scored and fewest goals conceded in the tournament thus far while also being FIFA's top-ranked team.
Gird your loins folks, this could be a long day...and night.
Location: CenturyLink Field (Seattle)
Kick-off time: 9:30pm Eastern
Available TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer 2Go (English), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
The gamethread for tonight's game will be posted one hour before kickoff.