Just in time for the trip to Brazil, the US national team portrayed a side ready to make hay at the World Cup in a fairly comprehensive 2-1 victory over Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann left his shiny new diamond midfield in the jewel box for this one, bringing back a formation that featured three central park rangers. The change worked wonders, with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones ruling the contest from midfield. Their work constantly put the team on its beloved counterattack, which offered up the chance for Jozy Altidore to get back on the board with a winning double.
Tim Howard (7) - The Everton star celebrated his 100th US cap with a sharp save near the end of each half and four in all. Howard also made a good play off his line and provided some good distribution.
Fabian Johnson (7) - It must be said that, despite one fine rally tackle, Johnson remains a defensive concern as a wingback at this top level. But even though he can also get caught up, Johnson skipping into the box at an angle is fast becoming one of the most important offensive weapons for the USMNT regardless of where he is stationed.
Geoff Cameron (5) - It was not a great final tune-up for Cameron, who experienced a variety of hiccups both before and after being switched from the center to right back in the late going. On the plus side, his top action came with a fine shoulder bump with the US clinging to the lead near time.
Matt Besler (5.5) - The Sporting KC defender was the epitome of solid in the first half, covering for teammates on multiple early occasions. However, Besler struggled after the break, culminating with the late penalty foul for Nigeria's lone goal.
DaMarcus Beasley (7.5) - Not only did Da Bease put in possibly his most solid defensive outing as a left back, he rediscovered that knack for driving the attack forward on the run. If the veteran is going to swarm ball carriers and eat flank space like that every time, he should start in Brazil. Nigeria actually gave up messing with him.
Kyle Beckerman (5.5) - This one is tough to judge, because Beckerman's positional integrity played a part in his midfield mates running wild like wolves on the prarie. At the same time, the Real Salt Lake midfielder was not sharp on the ball.
Jermaine Jones (8.5) - Having lived in California for a while now, the coach might well have shouted "Eureka!" at this performance. This is how Klinsmann and the US needs Jones to play. The midfield menace got warmed up for his first World Cup by making every pure central park play you could ever ask for, even while his wheels and passing repeatedly keyed the break.
Michael Bradley (9) - Apart from a bad turnover which led to him ceding a danger free kick near halftime, the General was in total command from box to box. Bradley could have had assists, plural, even before letting Altidore loose for his second.
Alejandro Bedoya (6.5) - Always available wide on the counter, Bedoya had mixed results with his end product. He was strong early, most notably when his pass unlocked the defense on the US opener. Though his quality of service dipped, the Nantes hustler worked hard in the defensive end until leaving at the hour mark.
Clint Dempsey (6.5) - Most of the final touches weren't quite there, but Deuce again gave a mobile defense fits with his movement. Dempsey also unhinged the Nigeria back with a string of small link touches that often go unnoticed. There is more than one way to skin an opponent and the Texas tornado uses them all.
Jozy Altidore (7) - Forget the first goal, it was really only noteworthy as a slump-buster. Ahh, but drink in the second, which saw the long-awaited return of Altidore's instincts around the box. A lack of decisiveness has been perhaps the biggest element missing from his game since his Sunderland time began last August, but he ends the Send-Off Series looking ready to go on the preferable kind of streak.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (9) - Oh, thank goodness. The boss had this space a bit tactically freaked out after the last two friendlies. So of course, Klinsmann reverts to a system more similar to the one used through World Cup qualifying, patching most every hole in one fun night.
He gave the back line more experience and an extra gatekeeper in midfield. The middle duo became a trio, controlling the game even when Nigeria dominated possession for the first 50 minutes and change. And all of these things, combined with confident encroachment from the wingbacks, allowed the attack to receive on the go with space to operate. Now, this looks like a team ready to throw blows in Brazil.
Graham Zusi (5) - He ate some space on the dribble, but it wasn't all positive yardage. The MLS champ failed to stay wide and missed with his service attempts. Simply put, Zusi was not at his sharpest.
Mikkel Diskerud (6) - Mix always moves things along nicely, but it would have been nice to see him corral the late Dempsey entry pass that slipped through his feet.
Timothy Chandler (6) - The substitute left back did not have much to do in 15 minutes on the clock.
Omar Gonzalez (4.5) - Despite only playing 10 minutes, the recovering defender managed a few miscues. After one miscommunication each with Besler and Howard, Gonzo was among the culpable on the broken play that produced Nigeria's penalty kick.
Chris Wondolowski (-) - A mere cameo, no time for the magical third "W" to take effect.