The US Men’s National Team was probably on the verge of putting a missing persons alert out for Jozy Altidore. Leading up to last night’s friendly against Nigeria, Altidore hadn’t scored in 28 straight international matches. However, he ended the drought in a major way by providing both goals in USA’s 2-1 victory over Nigeria. This is no doubt a huge victory for USMNT because Nigeria is a fellow 2014 World Cup qualifier, and the victory caps America’s undefeated three-game warm-up series before heading to Brazil.
Keeping the Faith
Mired in a huge goal-less slump, Altidore was starting to draw grumblings from die-hard US fans who wondered why he’s still seeing the field so much in international play. But coach Jurgen Klinsmann never lost faith in the 6’1″ striker, partly because Altidore had been so close to scoring on numerous occasions during his drought.
The first score was the result of a low-ball pass from teammate Fabian Johnson. Altidore’s second goal started when USMNT star Michael Bradley lofted an excellent pass to the striker. From here, it was all Altidore as he made a hard cut and blasted a shot past Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Growing up in Boca Raton, Florida, Altidore picked the perfect time to shine at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. He scored two goals in front of 52,033 people in his home state.
Lessons for Brazil
USA opened in a 4-2-3-1 formation, rather than the 4-4-2 version that Klinsmann had his team in earlier. The result wasn’t a complete success as Nigeria was able to put pressure on the American midfield and defense, most notably thanks to the play of Nigerian winger Victor Moses. USMNT also had trouble delivering crisp passes to each other as a number of balls went astray.
However, the Americans seemed to take control of the game after Altidore’s first score. They maintained possession well and started tiring out the Nigerian defense under Jacksonville’s hot and humid conditions. USA also did an excellent job at choosing when to counter, and the end product was another goal for Altidore.
But their play dropped off when late substitutions came into the match. At this point, USA showed less concentration and committed a big penalty against Nigeria in the box. This allowed Moses to score Nigeria’s only goal of the contest. Luckily, the score happened in the 86th minute of the game and USMNT was able to hold off their opposition for another win. However, the lapse of concentration down the stretch will serve as fire for Klinsmann to continue motivating his team before Brazil.