Insider: Ecuador plays for fallen teammate; Guzan prepped for PKs
Leading into Ecuador's Copa America quarterfinal against the United States (9:30 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas), its players continue to find inspiration playing for their fallen teammate, forward Christian “Chucho” Benítez, who died of a heart attack in Qatar in 2013 at age 27.
The third-leading scorer in the history of Ecuador with 24 goals in 58 caps, Benítez was extremely close to several of the Ecuador players. Teammate Antonio Valencia has a large tattoo on his left arm honoring Benítez’s memory.
“He’s still with us every time we play,” Valencia says.
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, then-Ecuador manager Reinaldo Rueda called up one fewer player than the full allotment for La Tri's final four World Cup qualifying matches, leaving an empty seat on the bench in Benitez's honor. It's safe to say that Benitez's impact on Ecuador has not waned.
Here are a couple of more insider notes related to Copa America:
Guzan ready for straight-to-PK scenario
In the Copa América knockout rounds, every game except the final will go straight to a penalty kick shootout after 90 minutes if the game is tied. U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan says that it’s definitely different for him, but he says he and the U.S. team have prepared for penalties should they happen. That includes working on penalties this week in training. Guzan has also studied opposition research about where the Ecuadorian players tend to place their penalty kicks.
The last PK shootout for the U.S. came in the Gold Cup third-place game last summer against Panama. After Aron Johannsson and Clint Dempsey converted their kicks, Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley each missed theirs. Guzan made one save in the shootout, which the U.S. lost 3-1.
Tite hired means Thiago Silva returns
Brazil announced on Wednesday that its new national team manager is Tite (pronounced "chee-chee"), the popular coach who moves into his new job from the club Corinthians.
Tite will not have the pressure of coaching the Brazil Olympic team, a job that will go to Rogério Micale, the Brazil Under-20 coach. A source close to the Brazilian FA says one of the biggest changes coming from the hiring of Tite is that former captain Thiago Silva will be called into the national team for the next time a roster is announced.
One of the world’s best center backs, Thiago Silva had been frozen out by previous coach Dunga.