JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It had been 28 matches since Jozy Altidore last found the back of the net. He returned to form in a big way on Saturday by scoring twice at EverBank Field in the US national team’s 2-1 win over Nigeria in front of an announced crowd of 52,033.
Both goals were a thing of beauty, for different reasons, and bound for the highlight reel as this team heads off to Brazil for its World Cup group opener June 16 in Natal against Ghana.
The first goal came emerged from good link-up play. In the 31st minute Fabian Johnson passed the ball to Alejandro Bedoya, who gave it right back on a pass from the wing as Johnson charged the outside of the 6-yard box, where he took possession and promptly fed Altidore across the mouth of the goal for an uncontested strike into the net.
The match was in the USMNT’s control from that point on as they finished the first half with a 7-5 advantage in shots (3 on goal).
Altidore doubled the lead in the 68th minute, this time finishing from the left side after receiving a pass from Michael Bradley and evading a defender in a one-on-one matchup by tapping the ball off his left foot and finishing strong with his right into the far corner.
Meanwhile, Nigeria came to life towards the end of the game, especially after the US began to make more substitutions, and narrowed the lead late. Matt Besler brought down Victor Moses in the box, and referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot. Moses converted a penalty kick in the 85th minute to ruin the clean sheet for USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, who earned his 100th cap.
All five members of the USMNT with previous World Cup experience made the start Saturday as part of a roster that rotated players throughout the match.
Klinsmann went with a backfield of DeMarcus Beasley, Besler, Geoff Cameron and Johnson while Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Bradley and Bedoya made up the midfield with Altidore and Clint Dempsey up top.
Bradley was the motor that kept the team moving much of the night. It was Bradley’s shot from beyond the top right side of the box at the 23 minute mark which ignited the crowd and seemed to instill life into the squad. The effort set up Bedoya on a corner kick, but after having it knocked away his bending counter from beyond the top left side of the box soared over the far right corner.
It fed the excitement of the supporters and appeared to bleed onto the pitch from that point on.
The final result gives the US its third win in three send-off matches after beating Azerbaijan 2-0 on May 27 and Turkey 2-1 on June 1.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jozy Altidore||One of the biggest questions going into the World Cup was Altidore's form and confidence -- it's safe to say he's in the right frame of mind after his brace|
|2||Michael Bradley||Set the tone early for the US with his forays forward, set up Altidore's second goal, and disrupted Nigeria all night. A nearly complete performance|
|3||Fabian Johnson||Did the legwork in setting up Altidore's first goal, and showed the value of having a defender who could attack at will on the field for the US|