Playing without three integral pieces, including captain goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, the Chilean national soccer team didn't quite live up to its growing clout Wednesday night in an international friendly at Citi Field. And that was really all the opportunity South American rival Ecuador needed.
Ecuador, led by Antonio Valencia, took advantage of an uneasy Miguel Pinto in goal, scored twice in the first 14 minutes to defeat Chile, 3-0, in only the third soccer match at Citi Field and the first this year. "It was a great opponent that we faced, which motivated us a lot," Ecuador manager Reinaldo Rueda said in Spanish. "It's a great commitment that we have in a very important game against a Chile national team that's leading the [2014 CONMEBOL World Cup] qualifiers."
Heavily favored by the boisterous crowd of 31,901, most in yellow jerseys, Ecuador opened the scoring on Narcisco Mina's skittering goal in the 10th minute. Mina took the cross from Manchester United's Valencia at the top of the box and put it in the net out of reach of a diving Pinto. Ecuador struck again just three minutes later, with Valencia again serving a precision cross from the wing, this time to Jaime Ayovi, whose score was nearly identical to Mina.
Pinto, who plays for the Universidad de Chile, was out of place on a third attempt minutes later, but was saved when Chile cleared the ball near goal to extinguish the threat. He then seemed to settle until Jefferson Montero's header off a high-bouncing through ball tipped over his hand in the 67th minute.
Chile sported a new, less-intimidating look Wednesday night, playing without star midfielder Arturo Vidal and defender Osvaldo Gonzalez, both recovering from injuries. Manager Claudio Borghi also left Bravo behind, deploying Pinto in only his 18th national team appearance since 2006, when he joined the squad. "It had not been a good game for us," Borghi said, adding that though he didn't wish to discuss it publicly, it allowed him to evaluate the defense and goal-keeping of "players that we don't spend a lot of time with."
Chile is ranked 15th worldwide by FIFA and was 12th in January. Ecuador, ranked 20th, is up seven spots from last month and is fourth in the World Cup qualifying tournament, which resumes play in September and carries on until October 2013.
"The team was loose, they were confident," Rueda said. "I hope we can repeat this performance when it's worth three points."