Jozy Altidore gave USA and himself a much-needed boost of confidence after scoring both goals in his side’s 2-1 win over Nigeria on Saturday.
The Sunderland striker struck in either half as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side secured a comfortable victory in their final World Cup warm-up, with a late penalty from Victor Moses not enough for Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles to earn a share of the spoils.
While many would have benched Altidore ahead of USMNT’s final 90 minutes ahead of their World Cup opener against Ghana on Monday week, coach Klinsmann maintained his belief in the Sunderland striker.
His faith was repaid, not once, but twice, as Altidore gave USA the perfect send off for their Brazilian campaign and laid to rest some of the concerns over the omission of Landon Donovan from the 23-man squad.
The only blemish on USA’s display – completing an unbeaten three-game warm-up series after previous wins over Azerbaijan and Turkey – was conceding a late penalty, converted by Moses, which denied Everton’s Tim Howard a clean sheet while making his 100th international appearance.
While Klinsmann enjoyed the luxury of a fully fit squad for this match, his Nigerian counterpart Keshi was using this match to reshape his line-up after injuries had accounted for Monaco defender Elderson Echiejile – who misses the World Cup with a hamstring tea – and CSKA Moscow winger Ahmed Musa, another injury victim from the Greece friendly.
Kenneth Omeruo, meanwhile, had been unable to practice with the squad since suffering a heavy knock in a training ground incident on Thursday.
Perhaps it was the potential threat of injury that meant neither side appeared fully committed in the early exchanges, meaning opportunities were few and far between.
If Keshi had been hoping for a quiet day, then his heart must have skipped a beat when Celtic defender Efe Ambrose – operating at right-back – was clattered by USA midfielder Jermaine Jones.
Ambrose lay motionless for a moment, but resumed after being treated for a knock to his hip, much to the relief of the Super Eagles bench.
USA gradually played themselves into the game and with their first real passing move broke the deadlock on 32 minutes. After Jones had found Bedoya, the Nantes winger slipped in the advanced Fabian Johnson, and the Hoffenheim right back squared across goal for Altidore to apply the finishing touch.
With just one goal to his name all season in England, Altidore maintained his more impressive record at international level, this being his 22nd goal for his country.
Nigeria pressed for an equaliser as the half drew to a close, Jones doing well to clear after Beckerman had given the ball away in the centre while Howard had to deal with an Ambrose header from a corner. The second half had a bit more pace to it than the first period, helped by the injection of fresh legs by both sides.
Clint Dempsey probably should have done better after a good run and shot in the 64th minute, but Vincent Enyeama deserves credit for a good stop.
However, the Lille goalkeeper was helpless as Altidore again repaid Klinsmann’s confidence in him with a superb finish in 68 minutes.
Michael Bradley’s chip forward found Altidore breaking on the left, the striker controlling the ball before stepping inside Yobo on to his right foot and drilling his shot in at Enyeama’s near post. Altidore was withdrawn near the end, more likely to savour the acclaim from the Jacksonville crowd rather than through fatigue, but the game was far from over.
Five minutes from time, Sporting Kansas defender Matt Besler felled Moses, who picked himself up and rolled the spot-kick past Howard.It proved a mere consolation goal for the Super Eagles, however, who look as if they still have various problems to overcome – especially around their sluggish defence – if they are to take anything from their must-win game against Iran in eight days.