Today in Jacksonville, the USMNT played African powerhouse Nigeria to a well-deserved 2-1 win.
The match marked the final game of the sendoff series before the World Cup and also marked Tim Howard’s 100th cap for the Stars and Stripes, Howard also earned his 55th win today.
Jurgen Klinsmann threw a bit of a foil into the gameplan for today’s match, going away from the 4-4-2 diamond and back to the 4-2-3-1; this time however, with Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones in front of the back-line. This switch left Michael Bradley to operate in the attacking midfield spot, and Clint Dempsey to play on the right side of the midfield, going forward when he could.
During the first 30 minutes the US appeared to be settling into their system, giving away possession easily to the Nigerians. A quick counter by the US in the 31st minute, led by Jermaine Jones, gave space to Alejandro Bedoya on the right and a slick pass to Fabian Johnson gave way to a cross that Jozy Altidore tapped from 4 yards. The goal from Altidore was his first for club or country since December 4 (against Chelsea).
The second half was thoroughly dominated by the US. Klinsmann made only a couple of changes during the first 30 minutes, which could indicate that this XI today will be seen against Ghana on June 16. Michael Bradley thrived in the second half, controlling most of the play in the midfield and tracking back on defense when needed. In the 68th minute Bradley’s tremendous chip over the top of the defense put Altidore in on goal; he smoothly cut the ball inside and fired a laser past the Nigerian ‘keeper to score his second goal of the match.
Nigeria got a goal back in the 86th minute, from a Victor Moses penalty. Matt Besler committed a foul deep inside the box and forced the referee to give a spot-kick.
This is exactly how Jurgen Klinsmann will want the US to play against Ghana in 9 days. They will have to keep their discipline on defense and make the most of their attacking chances, something they did today to perfection. The inclusion of Kyle Beckerman gives extra cover to the back four, which also means Michael Bradley can get forward more often. When Bradley and Dempsey can link up, good things happen for the US. This was the case today, and Jozy Altidore is heading to Brazil with confidence. The USMNT could surprise a few if they play as well as today.