The United States Men’s National Team concluded their 2014 World Cup send-off series with their best performance yet, defeating Nigeria 2-1 in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday night. Jozy Altidore scored his first two goals of 2014 to give the U.S. a two goal lead, before a late penalty for Nigeria allowed the visitors to cut the deficit in half and ruin Tim Howard’s bid for a shutout in his 100th U.S. appearance.
The U.S. finished their pre-World Cup send-off series with a perfect 3-0-0 record, defeating Turkey and Azerbaijan, as well as Nigeria. The U.S. will scrimmage Belgium in a closed door match in Sao Paolo, Brazil on June 12th before opening the World Cup against Ghana in Natal on June 16th.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann played a different line-up for the third straight game, starting Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in midfield together for the first time with Alejandro Bedoya and Clint Dempsey in front of them. Altidore got his third straight start up top, while DaMarcus Beasley replaced Timmy Chandler at left back and the rest of the defense remained unchanged with Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the center and Fabian Johnson on the right. Tim Howard got the start in goal for the third straight match and went the full 90 in his 100th U.S. appearance.
The U.S. looked the better team in the early going and took the lead in the 31st minute as Altidore scored his first goal for club or country since December 2013. Bedoya started the play with a great run down the right flank and a perfectly placed ball to Johnson at the near post. Johnson slid a low pass in front of Nigeria ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama, leaving Altidore with an easy tap-in to end his goal scoring drought.
Nigeria’s best chance came in the 44th minute off a corner kick from Victor Moses. Moses swung in a cross where Efe Ambrose got open and powered a header on frame from about 10 yards. Howard got down making a somewhat difficult save and preserving the U.S lead going into halftime.
Dempsey had a chance to add to the U.S. lead in the 65th minute after combining well with Bradley and breaking into the box. Dempsey got in on goal and with Altidore to his left, opted to shoot instead of pass, but couldn’t beat Enyeama from close range.
Altidore then doubled the lead in the 68th minute with a fantastic effort. Altidore took the ball off his chest from a pass from Bradley, cut inside on his defender in the box, and then finished past Enyeama to the near post for his 23rd U.S. goal.
Howard then came up big to preserve the shutout in the 83rd minute when substitute Emmanuel Emenike beat the U.S. offside trap and was alone on goal. Emenike hit a low shot on frame, but Howard got down making the save. From there, the U.S. held on to preserve the win.