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Send-off Series FInale

Altidore, Stars and Stripes Too Much for Super Eagles

Jozy Altidore's double helped the United States men's national team defeat Nigeria 2-1 in the American's most complete performance of the Send-off Series. Pressure off, for now.
BY Noah Davis Posted
June 07, 2014
7:54 PM
For the first time in 27 games, Jozy Altidore got a goal. Two, actually.

They came in a 2-1 win against Nigeria, the type of performance for both the player and the squad that gives them momentum going into the World Cup.

Altidore's first came in the 32nd minute the second excellent passage of play leading to a score in as many games. Jermaine Jones, pushing forward, put a ball to revelation Alejandro Bedoya. The Ligue 1 midfielder led a streaking Fabian Johnson—who looks increasingly comfortable getting into the attack from the right back position—who crossed to an open Altidore. The Sunderland forward did not miss with a gaping net in front of him.

The goal came after a back and forth opening half hour. Klinsmann, who doesn't care about formations, surprised pundits by starting Michael Bradley, Kyle Beckerman, and Jermaine Jones. It was a more defensive formation, with the Real Salt Lake captain and the Besiktas center midfielder sitting above the backline behind Bradley.

As a result, Nigeria dominated possession for the first 15 minutes but failed to make anything happen. The U.S. looked to counter, led—as always—by Bradley, who could push higher knowing he had support. The last passes were off, however, and the attack looked gummed up, not nearly as sharp as it will need to be in Brazil.

The goal came after the U.S. wrestled control back from the visitors. For Altidore, maligned for his lack of production, was in the right place to silence the critics for now.

During the first 45 minutes, the U.S. had 58 percent of the possession, completing 285 passes with 94 percent accuracy.

The second half picked up where the first one ended, with each team picking and prodding and changing possession but neither creating much in the way of chances. The U.S., especially, was a half-step off.

Altidore could have had a second in the 65th minute, but Dempsey—after a lovely interchange with Bradley and a bit of dribbling skill—chose to shoot at the Nigerian keeper instead of passing to his wide open teammate.

And then, perhaps inevitably, Altidore did score his second three minutes later. After a bad giveaway by Nigeria, Bradley found himself with space about midfield. He looked up and chipped to the streaking forward who beautifully controlled the ball with his chest before cutting it back and ripping it into the net. It was, as Ian Darke called it, "a striker's goal."

Although the Americans had chances as Nigeria tired, it would be Nigeria that scored the final goal. A Matt Besler foul in the box gave Victor Moses a penalty. The forward did not miss in the 86th, beating Tim Howard easily.

It was a nervy final few minutes but overall, the U.S. proved their point. The partnership between Besler and Geoff Cameron looked better than it had in the previous two games. Bedoya, who came out after an hour for Graham Zusi, was unafraid to take chances and delivered some solid corner kicks. (The new Landon Donovan, anyone?) Howard controlled the backline, staying vocal and distributing quickly and smartly.

In short, while it wasn't perfect, it was the type of performance that sets the Americans up well for the World Cup.

Next stop: Brazil.

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