Brazil 2014: World Cup Warm Up #3 – USMNT 2-1 Nigeria
With the Send-Off Series complete for the USMNT, OTF’s Joe Maskivish brings the match review…
Off to Brazil.
The Yanks completed a sweep of their pre-tournament matches with a 2-1 victory on Saturday against Nigeria. With the Send-Off Series behind them, the United States now heads to the Southern Hemisphere to begin playing in the 2014 World Cup.
The U.S. appeared to click as a team. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley showed much improvement over the previous two games, and the starting back-line did well to avoid any major lapses. Manifesting his thought about the insignificance of formations, Jurgen Klinsmann moved away from his diamond midfield and instead opted for two defensive midfielders, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman. This allowed Michael Bradley to roam free in an offensive role and move forward he did.
Bradley’s play out of the center of the pitch kept the Americans moving forward, as he continuously connected on passes, including an assist on the second goal. The General also showed his defensive capabilities, often tracking back to cover any midfield lapses and break up many Nigerian rushes. This responsible play coupled with the offensive threat, suggest Bradley could be hitting his stride at the right moment.
Also coming through at the right moment, Jozy Altidore finally got off the snide in 2014 with two goals, the second of which was world class. The psyche of a striker being fragile as it is, those two goals are easily the most important of any the Americans scored during the three games played prior to the tournament. With positive form from Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson of late, the ability of the Yanks to put the ball in the net is sure to give this team confidence.
Confidence can be a delicate matter and improved play from the back-line against Nigeria showed the confidence the players have in each other. While not a strong point of the team by any means, it seems that many media-types have been quick to assume the play of the back-four will be a hindrance.
Personally, play like that against Nigeria provides hope that not all is lost and the four men on the field could prove naysayers wrong.
The starting line-up was one many wanted to see; however the pieces on the field did fall short in one aspect. The elimination of Graham Zusi and/or Brad Davis from the field does remove the option of world class service on set pieces. Going forward, this will be something to watch should this continue to be the Starting XI.
It’s a nice feeling to be able to head to Brazil with three momentum-building victories. The key now will be to maintain that momentum and continue to grow, as the three Group Stage opponents become exponentially better as the Yanks navigate the schedule. Having your best players clicking at the right time is key and, by the looks of things, this appears to be the case.
And with that, we’re off to Brazil. Go Go USA!
A look back at the questions entering Saturday’s contest in Jacksonville, FL:
Will the U.S. starting back four be one we have seen previously, or will we get a look at another combination?
This was the same starting back-line we saw against Azerbaijan and appears to be the line-up against Ghana. Their play was improved and communication/spacing was better with Beasley in rather than Timmy Chandler.
At some point, will Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey both be subbed out for a new forward combination (Johannsson & Wondolowski)?
Eventually both men did come out, but it wasn’t enough time to be significant minutes and the U.S. was playing a defensive posture to preserve the lead. In fact, Altidore’s replacement was Omar Gonzalez, giving the U.S. five defenders.
Can Michael Bradley consistently connect on passes going forward out of the midfield?
This is a resounding yes. Bradley’s play in this one was by far his best of the three games and he was dangerous throughout. Play like this from Bradley would give the Americans a chance against most teams in the field.
Will the previously unsuccessful U.S. strategy of hitting long balls to the forward group continue?
Luckily this strategy was scrapped in favor of playing out of their own end. This was assisted by Bradley’s play, as well as, the link between Bradley and Beckerman/Jones.
Can the back-line make it through the full match without any glaring lapses?
The back-line had a positive game. The one-on-one defending was greatly improved and the communication, previously lacking, appeared to be there. Despite the late penalty conceded, the back-four had a good game.
OTF Man of the Match: Jozy Altidore
This pick is as easy as it gets. Scoring both goals for the Americans, Jozy looked dangerous throughout his time on the field. After scoring his first, it was obvious Altidore was exuding confidence with his passing game and world class finish on the second goal.
Need more World Cup and USMNT chat?
OTF’s Joe Maskivish will be tracking USMNT’s World Cup preparations and progress until the boys come back from Brazil. Follow him @JoeMaskivish.