The USMNT defeated Nigeria 2-1 in Jacksonville in the last match of the send-off series before the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Jozy Altidore scored both goals for the United States and finally ended his 27 match scoring drought.
Jurgen Klinsmann said that he was still tweaking his lineup, but it seems likely that the starting lineup against Nigeria will be very similar to the one that features against Ghana. (Via ESPN)
Tim Howard earned his 100th cap for the national team, and the crowd gave him a warm welcome at the beginning of the match. DaMarcus Beasley came back into the left back role after Timmy Chandler struggled against Turkey, and Fabian Johnson started yet again at right back.
Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron partnered together in central defense, and the starting defense did not allow a single goal. Chandler and Omar Gonzalez came in late in the match, but Klinsmann’s starting defenders will be his favorites to play in the World Cup.
Klinsmann came back to a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones were the two holding midfielders. Having the two defensive-minded players in midfield allowed Michael Bradley to have more freedom in the attacking third and removed some of his defensive responsibilities.
Alejandro Bedoya joined Clint Dempsey and Altidore in the attacking three. Altidore came into the match having not scored a goal since December 4th.
Altidore’s first goal came on a counterattacking move 31 minutes into the match, and was really the first decent chance for the US. Nigeria dominated possession early on in the proceedings, and they were quite dangerous in the first ten minutes.
Johnson made another one of his adventurous runs into the box from his right back position and slid the ball over to Altidore, easily passing the ball into an empty net. It was the simplest of goals, but it was monumental for the United States. Klinsmann has kept faith in the Sunderland striker, but there were worries that he would not get out of his slump before Brazil.
Altidore’s first goal not only eased all worries, but gave him the confidence to snatch a beauty of a goal in the second half. His second goal was a true striker’s goal, as he juked out a defender and blasted the ball past the keeper.
Altidore’s goals and commanding performance were much needed for the United States. Bradley’s nearly flawless performance in his attacking role was another bright spot for Klinsmann’s group.
Giving away yet another penalty was concerning, but it was given away with half of the defense substituted. That will likely cement the Klinsmann’s mind for which defenders he wants to play.
Beckerman and Jones also made a convincing case for starting as they provided a solid defensive performance that allowed Bradley to make such an impact in the attack.
Bedoya was replaced by Graham Zusi, and Zusi put in a fantastic performance. It’s unclear which one will get the nod.
Dempsey is set to captain his national team for the first time at a major tournament, and Altidore showed that he’s back.
Klinsmann entered the send-off series with many questions to answer, but with his third win in as many matches he seems to have answered most of them. Jozy has finally gotten out of his funk, and the United States is as ready as ever to take on the “Group of Death” in Brazil.