Top Stories

Altidore bags brace to lift USMNT past Nigeria in final send-off series match

Fabian Johnson, Jozy Altidore

photo by John Todd/


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If the final send-off series friendly is anything to go by, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks plenty ready for its World Cup opener vs. Ghana.

The U.S. closed out World Cup preparations on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria at EverBank Field in the Americans’ final friendly before heading to Brazil. Jozy Altidore bagged a brace to end a goal-less drought that extended over 27 games for club and country, and the American defense put together an organized performance before conceding on a late penalty kick to Victor Moses.

Altidore scored on each side of halftime in a match played in front of a crowd of 52,033 that marked the largest turnout for a U.S. friendly in the southeast. The veteran forward first netted on a tap-in following a feed from Fabian Johnson just after the half-hour mark, and doubled the U.S. lead with a blast in the 68th. The goals were Altidore’s 22nd and 23rd, respectively, at the international level.

The match saw goalkeeper Tim Howard earn his 100th appearance with the U.S., and was played under hot and humid conditions that will replicate what the Americans will experience at the World Cup. It also improved Jurgen Klinsmann’s side to 3-0 in their send-off series after victories over Azerbaijan and Turkey.

“It took us a while to get into the game because we couldn’t keep the ball the first 20-25 minutes, long enough to kind of play out of the situation and switch sides and make it open,” said Klinsmann. “Once we understood to make the field more wide, we stretch it, we looked better. We started then to get into a flow, better combinations, we started to play more simple, one-two touches from the back into midfield, finding Jozy and playing from his presence on.

“Obviously, it’s a wonderful message to see that Jozy now put the thing in the net and that gives him a big smile at the right time now.”

Altidore found the back of the net for the first time since doing so for in Sunderland’s match vs. Chelsea on Dec. 4 on a well-worked sequence in the 31st minute.

Some nice combination passing and movement opened up Nigeria’s defense for a rare U.S. chance in the first half, with Jermaine Jones finding Alejandro Bedoya on the right flank to start the sequence. Bedoya collected the pass and then poked the ball to an onrushing Fabian Johnson before the right back hit a low cross to a wide open Altidore.

“The team play has always been good,” said Altidore. “I think that’s something we’ve always been good at in the past couple of years. We’ve improved on it dramatically.”

Altidore doubled the scoring midway through the second half after Michael Bradley hit a sublime pass over the top that left the U.S. forward isolated on Nigeria defender and captain Joseph Yobo. Altidore then dribbled inside of Yobo, and proceeded to rifle a shot inside the near post past a helpless Vincent Enyeama.

“(Michael and I) have that relationship: He knows where I’m at all the time and it was a great ball,” said Altidore. “I just tried to bring it down and it was set up a chance for myself or I knew Clint (Dempsey) is always around the box.

“In that particular moment I saw the better option was the shot instead of to pass it, so I shot.”

The striker’s brace gave the U.S. a lead after initially struggling to connect passes in the first 25 minutes of the match. Deployed in a 4-3-2-1 formation that saw players in the midfield and attack move freely, the Americans initially lost the possession battle but held firm defensively before settling into the game.

“I think we started off a little bit lethargic, but I think that comes with everything that we’ve done,” said Bedoya, who saw a curled effort in the first half just miss the top right corner. “We’ve been working our butts off the last couple of weeks and, obviously, the heat probably slows things down in terms of tempo of the game. We started off a little bit slow, but I think we built it up.”

The U.S. created more of the clear chances in the first half, but Nigeria had opportunities of its own. Most of those came via long-range shots that did little to trouble Howard, but the Nigerians came close to finding an equalizer in the 44th minute on a header from Eric Efe Ambrose that an alert Howard smothered.

The Americans could have taken a two-goal lead three minutes before Altidore’s strong strike did the job, but Dempsey was stoned by Enyeama on a one-on-one opportunity.

A win looked to be secure up until centerback Matt Besler was called for a foul on Moses inside the penalty area in the 85th minute. Moses then converted the ensuing chance from 12 yards out, marking the second straight friendly in which the U.S. had the game by the scruff of the neck before conceding a late spot kick to give the opposition a small glimmer of hope.

“It’s a tough one to give up. You never want to give up goals,” said Besler. “But at the end of the day, we won the game. To be honest, that’s all I really care about. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get the shutout for Tim, but he’ll tell you the same thing.”

With their stateside World Cup preparations now complete, the Americans will travel to Sao Paulo on Sunday before facing Ghana in their Group G opener on June 16.


What did you think of the U.S.’s 2-1 win vs. Nigeria? Who impressed/disappointed you? Think the Americans are ready for their match against Ghana?

Share your thoughts below.


      • interesting that Jones had perhaps his best game as a US player in a spot that had him out wide.

        Bedoya and Jones do have some similarities. The clearest comparison is their extremely high work rates. They both occasionally have a pass offensively, but aren’t as gifted with vision and touch as others. Both can find the occasion sneaky goal, but aren’t a big threat to defenders. Jones certainly plays the role of destroyer better.

  1. I don’t think we learned anything about JK’s thoughts on who are the first subs, or even if he plans any changes from Saturday’s starting 11 at any position. I am not sure even JK knows. He still has over a week of training sessions and the Belgium scrimmage to evaluate players. I suspect he will use the same 6 defensive players he used against Nigeria in the scrimmage to get them more minutes together and solidify their understanding. Other than that Mike, Clint, Jozy and a midfielder, probably Bedoya, but Davis might get that spot. Evaluating which players are likely to come in is subs is much harder since injury and circumstances will dictate what makes the most sense.

    • I hope JK knows who he wants to start against Ghana, and for whatever it’s worth, he has said he does. I don’t think there is a debate about whether substitutions are circumstantial or not, of course they are. My impression was that we were trying to theorize about the team’s pecking order, based on form, chemistry, how we think JK views them, etc. You and Jack do imply that there may be no pecking order in JK’s mind, and I respect that idea.

      Let’s say we have a back line of Beas-Besler-Cam-Johnson. If Beas gets injured, JK can do a lot of things.
      He can bring in Chandler as a direct swap,
      or he can bring in someone like Gonzo/Brooks, and move Cam to RB and FabJo to LB,
      or, less likely, he can bring in Yedlin and move Fab to the other side.

      I think you’re right, there would be other factors JK would consider, but he must favor one of those moves over the other, right? This idea works with the midfield unit as well, because we have a good deal of versatility.

      The strikers are a little less versatile, but if JK has to start a game without Jozy, I think AJ is first up, and Wondo waits to be a situational substitution. I mean, in that scenario, would he move Dempsey up and bring in a guy like Davis, Mix, Bedoya/Zusi instead? I don’t know, but I enjoy these kind of thought experiments, even if they are a little pointless in the end.

  2. After all those remarks about a scoreless Jozy, which I’ve been reading for months, I just want to say: It doesn’t matter who scores, what counts is the U.S. scores. It’s really a question of contribution, and Jozy has consistently been a major contributor to U. S. scoring.

  3. This comment section might already be dead, depending on what drops in the morning, and my question might be a little trollish, considering I’m asking you all for purely subjective speculation, buuuuuuuut…

    Do you think we can read anything into the subs?

    To begin, I think this is extremely close to the formation, and the players that Klinsmann will start with on June 16th in Natal.

    Personally, I feel like the subs were the guys, after the camp and first two games, who were most in need of proving themselves worthy of WC playing time. I think Brooks is ahead of Gonzo, AJ is ahead of Wondo, and yes, Yedlin and Green are both ahead of Chandler and Mix, respectively. I know that Brooks is a LCB and Gonzo is a RCB, and that Wondo and AJ are two completely different players, but I think that JK would rather bring on guys like Brooks and AJ, and adjust the shape of the field players accordingly. Sure, in certain situations, JK will bring on the other guy, one of today’s subs, but if JK is just trying to pick his most dangerous line-up, or if a sub is made due to injury, fatigue, or cards, I believe that the players farthest on those fringes were auditioning today.

    • AMP: that’s a very interesting question. I think you may be right on *most* counts. Just to facilitate discussion, I’m going to list:

      Who came in: Gonzo, Wondo, Chandler, Mix, Zusi

      Who stayed on the bench: Brooks, AJ, Yedlin, Green, Guzan, Rimando, Davis

      I think you’re right that:

      I’m doubtful about Yedlin-before-Chandler, simply because they play opposite sides (in JK’s setup). I think, rather, that JK was testing Chandler vs Beasley for a certain matchup…say, Germany.

      I definitely do not believe that Green-before-Mix. Mix has proven very capable of providing magic late in the match and, like Yedlin-v-Chandler above, Mix and Green play totally different positions and roles. I think Mix was brought on because that will always be his role and JK wants to keep him fresh playing that role. In other words, look for Mix to always come in late for one of the CMs.

      You didn’t mention Zusi. I can’t say whether he is before Bedoya or not. I favor Zusi slightly, but I can’t guess what JK sees.

      One additional challenge to reading JK’s mind: Davis stayed on the bench—but why? Because he a) has a solid starting spot (according to your logic for the other subs), b) is waaay down on the list, c) was a wee bit injured so he was rested, or d) doesn’t fit into the “formation” JK ran tonight? I lean toward a combination of c and d.

      • A few things to add:
        -AJ was warming up, but then Wondo came on. I don’t know if AJ sat because he went with the 5 man backline instead of a straight swap
        -Davis was hurt for 2 days and was doing work on the side, even though it was only reported for that one day when they scrimmaged 9v9
        – I thought Bedoya put in a good shift, except in the final 3rd.. and expected Zusi to add more as a fresh sub, but he didn’t.. If today’s lineup w JJ, KB & MB is a go.. one of those 2 guys will need to be sharper on that wing
        -I’m not surprised by the 5 man backline late, just don’t know who.. Gonzo looked hesitant, but the fault for the PK goes to several guys..
        Most importantly…
        – I’m ready for this thing to begin already!!

      • Not mentioning Zusi was an oversight, because I planned on putting in a short paragraph for him, since I felt like he was the exception to my overall argument. He came on twelve minutes before the next sub, and I felt that it was because he might be the first off off the bench, after Bedoya wears down himself and the opponent.

        Really glad to get such great responses, from dudes whose comments I like to read.

        Haha, Yedlin and Green were both a bit of a stretch for me, but I really wanted to line up the dominoes.

        Chandler is ahead of Yedlin in my book, because I think he’s stronger, better positionally, more versatile, and almost as fast. Still though, I question how Klinsmann currently rates them.

        Okay, trying to get in JK’s brain here.

        As far as Green goes, I would pick him ahead of Mix, even though Mix has proven his impact in that central attacking role. I would rather keep Bradley in that position, or move Deuce down a bit. I think Mix is behind the two guys you don’t want to take off the field. Zusi might be the direct sub for Bedoya, or vice versa, but I think Green could be a sub for Beckerman or Jones, should the need arise to mount a stronger attack.

      • Good luck with that task!!
        Well the need will arise, whether it’s situational or injury or by game
        Re: Chandler, I’d agree he’s rated over Yedlin. I think him being on the left has been a straight swap deal w Beas- trying to keep the other backs in place as much as possible…but if Fabian couldn’t go I’d expect Chandler over Yedlin on the right
        The rest of the sub pattern will be interesting..especially if we’re behind. Who knows.. I bet he’s got some specifics in his head but we won’t know till it happens.
        And yea, he’s unorthodox enough to throw Green to the wolves. Not that I’d recommend it, but if you look back at most of our games, he always seemed to have a knack for getting the right subs in..but we forget that bc qualifying was an eternity ago.

      • Bac, AMP: interesting thoughts. The point I was trying to make about Yedlin vs Chandler is that they aren’t really compared in JK’s book—yes, he may view Chandler as a better player than Yedlin, but he probably views Guzan as better too. In thinking about who makes the field, I don’t think it’s worth comparing Yedlin to Chandler.

        Now, maybe I’m totally wrong. Maybe if FabJo has to sit, then Chandler would come on instead of Yedlin (assuming that DMB is at LB already).

        I think what excited me most about whatever “formation” JK ran yesterday is that it threw positions out the window. Jones was a LM on the attack, not a CM. Dempsey was floating everywhere, not a LM. Besler pushed further forward than a typical CB, often overlapping Beckerman. It was crazy.

        What that means is that we can’t compare two players even if JK comes out and says, “X and Y are my RMs.” Because as soon as Y comes in for X, he’s going to have the license to play the position very differently.

        It provides a greater degree of tactics than the standard “sub in fresh legs at 60 and 80 minutes” strategy. Fresh legs are great, but if they’re running the same plays as the guy they replaced then there’s only so much difference they can make. Or, “Uh oh, X is hurt. Hey Y, go in there and try your best to do what X would have done.”

        I see Mix coming in for Jones and playing more straight up the middle than down the left flank. Or coming in for Beckerman being more of a playmaker than Beckerman’s style. In other words—and admittedly getting way too excited about what I say in only ONE game—I see JK encouraging far more flexibility and individuality. I don’t think Mix necessarily has to sub for only Dempsey or Bradley.

      • Completely agree, and am also eagerly anticipating seeing more of this style. Even though I didn’t think it was our best complete game of the send off series, I’m more confident than ever at our chances of beating Ghana! We’re only a baker’s week away!

    • I think different players have different roles and it’s not as much about who is ahead of who. These players were brought in to kill off a match. Wondo’s job was really just to press the back line. Omar was suppose to just sit in and clear out anything in the air. The problem was the US kept going and trying to score and got pulled out of it’s shape.

  4. At the game today and the most impressive part (other than a win of course) was the sight of 50,000 Red, White and Blue soccer fans most of them 20 somethings all decked out to the nines (accessory companies had to be drooling all over them selves) and in fine voice. Soccer has finally come of age in this country and hopefully it continues after the WC.

    • Good to hear. 🙂 I just hope this USMNT attention finally has enough momentum to bring a tidal wave of new fans into following our domestic league. I’m sure the increased media coverage will help. 3 months ago ESPNdotCOM didn’t have any MLS highlights, like it does for all the other major American sports leagues, and now it does. A big step, to me.

    • While Bedoya didn’t have a bad game, I thought his was the least impressive performance of all the starters — certainly of all the attacking players. He’s simply not in the same class as Bradley, Dempsey or Altidore (or Johnson or Beasley, for that matter). The team played well and the attack was stronger than we have recently seen. But I couldn’t help thinking that the team would have been even better if Donovan instead of Bedoya/Zusi had been out there. No, I don’t think Landon would have scored 5. But, even having lost a step, he still has the same vision, excellent touch and quickness of thought and action that we’ve seen for years. At his best, he creates about three times the goal-scoring opportunities that Bedoya creates (and twice those of Zusi). A difference like that might well result in two or three or four more goal-scoring chances in a game — chances that Altidore, Dempsey or Bradley (if not Donovan, himself) might occasionally finish.

      • I saw the same thing advocate, I like bedoya a lot and thought he had a solid game but his link up play in the final 3rd was a little off, not included his nice combo on the goal. Makes me wonder how good could we could be with LD out there.

    • Bedoya was in for his defensive play. Who do you think covered for Johnson when he went forward? LD has never been a good cover guy.

  5. Definitely not his best performance for the national team. He annihilated Scotland in a friendly a year and a half ago.

  6. Wondo would have scored. He was in the perfect spot to make it 3-1 if the ball had been passed to him. He was in there for only about 5? minutes. But if they had needed that goal he could have scored. By the way Nigeria is not Ghana. Surely Ghana does not have as mediocre a defense as Nigeria seems to have. I would like to see the US not act as if this was the World Cup already. There is still a lot of room for improvement.

    • Defenses may be comparable, but mids are not. Not that NIgeria is bad, but Ghana will be much better at clogging the center of the park and possessing. At least, I think, based on their roster and track record. I am optimistic about our chances though.

      • Yes, it’s good to watch them win. And in the end that’s all that counts. I hope Altidore keeps on poaching. I am afraid, though, that that won’t be enough. Even though Ronaldo was not there Portugal still won. I also believe that Ghana has some payers who are capable of injuring our guys. As far as Nigeria goes, I was wondering if they didn’t play as if they meant it.

    • Wondo has never played a team even at Nigeria’s level. If you think today was not an accurate reflection of the difficulty of the World Cup, I’m a bit curious as to why you place so much confidence in Wondo, when the most difficult opponent he’s faced was mexico in a friendly without Dos santos or Chicharito?

      • Wondo plays direct soccer. He doesn’t waste his energy with arabesques. In the end you can’t tell who in the game makes the difference unless that person scores. I remember when Gerd Mueller played for Germany and he scored and scored, but everyone was criticizing him because he did not have the finesse that others had. He is still one of the most prolific scorers in German soccer history. Wondo won’t be that, but he has a really good instinct where to be when it is necessary to score.

  7. This match proved it, for once and all, Julian Green will not see the pitch in Brazil. I must say, I thought he would, but……………….

  8. Glad Jozy is off the schnide.

    Now if Dempsey can do a little better with his opportunities. Yes, it was a friendly – no reason to go crazy and get hurt, but he was taking bad touch after bad touch in dangerous spots. Convert a couple of those into SOGs (if not goals) and then we have something.

  9. After the lackluster play by Portugal against Mexico, Germany’s less than inspiring play in friendlies and Ghana not particularly lighting things up, I see more than a glimmer of hope for the USA.

      • Yes. Someone spiked his own koolaid… and Portugal hasn’t played its best 4-5 players yet. We look good, but, as Ives says “pump the brakes” on all that.

        We tend to get SBI Shows soon after good games… crack one and yell at us Ives!

      • The USA is probably playing near its potential, while Germany, Portugal and Ghana have not been performing up to expectations. Of course that can change, but I would rather face those 3 teams when they are struggling a bit than when they are hitting on all cylinders, hence more than a glimmer of hope. At least 1 of the 3 is likely to continue to struggle and perhaps we can catch a second when it is having one of those struggling days.

  10. Interesting change of lineup using 2 midfielders in front of the back 4. Reminds me of Bradley”s (Bob) decision that that made the most sense, given the US players’ talents, in games against talented sides. Though, I admit Bradley used it almost exclusively even when the US was up against less talent. JK resisted for a long time, but, I think, came to see that the US defense was going to be very suspect if only 5 players felt that was their responsibility, so like Bradley, he upped the numbers of players told to defend first..

    Some people hated it, called it the “empty bucket”, but its implementation allows MB, Dempsey and Altidore and one other to have more freedom to attack without getting in each others way, or worrying about how to recover from giving up too many goals.

    • We still played the diamond, Jones just took over at left mid. It might have made it less diamond-y (is that a word?), but this was not the 4-2-3-1 we’re used to

      • It is not the shape that is important, it is the primary roles the players take on. In this game, it was pretty clear that 2 midfielders were given the responsibility to defend first. In other recent games only one midfielder was given that task. No formation looks like the starting spots for long, but in every sense, Jones and Beckermann were 2 defensive mids and they pretty much stayed back (of course, that does not mean staying side-by-side, but taking up positions that made sense at the time, but always with an eye to their primary task of defense).

    • The difference is that they come to the formation now having played a more attacking style, and can easily transition out of it into something more dangerous. I think JK always knew he was ending up here but wanted to take a winding road so as to be able to create opportunities many ways.

  11. As good as he was, I wouldn’t call this his best performance ever. We’ve seen him just as dominant capped off with a goal from a late run to the box. The guy is a beast and will continue to ball out in Brazil.

  12. Starting XI looked solid. Chandler is a waste of space compared to DMB. Fabian is the friggin’ MAN. Loved our starting fullbacks.

  13. 3 quick negative takeaways:
    1. With that many breakaways & chances created, shoulda put another few away
    2. I have no problem with a 5 man backline to kill off a game.. but with a 5 man backline that penalty should have never been given up.. can’t get caught up and out on transition then give that up
    3. Gotta play 90.. everyone.. some sluggish legs

    3 quick positive takeaways:
    1. DMB solidified starting job
    2. Jones Beckerman Bradley looked good..(all 3 had some careless giveaways but played well together) which really helped solidify how the backline played
    3. Jozy scored. If history repeats-> Drought -> brace -> scores in 5 consecutive games

    • Bac, just to ease your mind a bit: that goal we gave up was entirely because of the 5 substitutions late in the match. No way will that ever happen in a real match (by definition) and no way will we see 3 defenders subbed. So just erase that flub from your memory.

      • This is true, but that’s twice we gave up late goals, and looked a little sloppy with some dead legs late.
        If the progression we’ve seen the last few weeks plays out, we now go from sharpening and finalizing players to getting fresh and staying sharp the full 90.
        So I got that off my chest.. it’s now erased from my memory

  14. this was a great game to watch. the fact that so many people were wondering what kind of formation it was proves exactly what JK was talking about. that system had multiple formations. on defense, the 4-3-2-1 looked great with Jones, Bedoya, and Beckerman in there with Bradley pressing from above them. going forward, i saw times where it looked like a 4-4-2-, 4-2-3-1, and 4-3-3. either way, it worked for the most part.

    Beasley looked good. not saying Chandler didn’t look good today, but I think I’d go with Beasley in 2/3 of our games (Chandler playing in the Germany game).

    i was disappointed to not see AJ though. would have preferred to see him over Wondo.

    • Beasley was great tonight, but it was nice to see Chandler put in a decent shift as backup… he also had that great run late spoiled a bit by the fact that nobody but Deuce made a supporting run.

      • i agree, was nice to see Chandler do well.

        i just checked and saw that Beasley had a 100% pass completion % (0 of 2 in crossing though).

    • great observations, bryan. The “formation” was very flexible—just lacked service from the left wing a bit.

      • yeah, i agree. at least compared to the right side. it seemed FJ was the one taking chances while Beasley was staying put more often. explains why he had a 100% pass rate!

      • I thought Bedoya was a disappointment in that he missed a couple of great opportunities with botched crosses. Kind of a tossup between him and Zusi.

  15. Great to see that performance in the last warmup. If they can match it on the 16th, they will be competitive and maybe even put up a W. Jones, Bradley, Johnson, Altidore, Cameron and Beasley all looked sharp.
    JK needs to coach the team up on how to finish off games more comfortably. All that chaos after 80 minutes of domination could be avoided. Of course, finishing more of their chance would help, but the last ten is no time to come unglued in the back.

  16. Maybe this is unfair whining, but when the US is up by 2 with 10 minutes to go, would they please play to keep possession? Those quick one-twos look nice and they created more chances, but they also gave Nigeria a number of chances on counter attacks. I hope in the WC they will play smarter as points are more important than goals. (yes, I know goal differential and total goals are tiebreakers) All in all, a very heartening performance.

    • It would look different in a WC match. I don’t mind them playing their game to the whistle in that circumstance.

    • It’s an exhibition.

      Subbing that many tends to break up the cohesion but those subs need to get their minutes in .

      And do you really want to risk injuries to your starters?

      • I never said anything about not subbing. Remember that Klinsmann said he wanted the US to play possession football? Well, that was the time for it, subs or not. They need to practice finishing out games.

      • And those subs, like Gonzo, need to practice being 100% dialed in and on the same page as everyone else from the get go when subbing in.

        And that goes for the guys who were not subbed. They need to practice immediately integrating a sub w/o losing their flow.

        Because that might actually happen in the World Cup.

        This may surprise you but , conventional wisdom notwithstanding, JK actually does seem to know a thing or two about how to coach a game. and manage a team.

    • I thought about it his too, but perhaps in this situation Jk’s instructions were to keep pressing. In a WC match, yes, manage the game. I dunno. We’re pretty bad at that historically, so maybe we should’ve practiced it.

    • wasn’t reckless. did what he could. Omar getting beat was the real issue. Besler could only do so much. without the penalty, he probably scores anyway.

      • I agree with you mostly, but I still don’t like giving up the penalty. Just put as much pressure on the dude as you can, limit his angles, and Timmy has a better chance to save it than he does a penalty.

      • The hand around the back was unnecessary… if this (rec level) LCB is going to nitpick. Besler could have at least tried to push the attacker outside, limit angles. But yes, Gonzo.

    • The penalty resulted from taking Beasley off and opening that flank, and having the hapless Gonzo inside. Besler is just trying to get stuck in and fix the chain reaction mess.

      I don’t understand Chandler LB it has never worked. I played LB right footed in college and it is a mental and technical adjustment. He keeps getting caught up, and his offense is negated left side.

      Gonzo should not be on this team. Period.

      • +1, and an actual lol, but I remember 2002 bounding down the stairs to announce to my most apathetic family that we were beating “the golden generation” or whatever they were calling themselves–3-0 at the half. We will need the beautiful game we have seen flashes of and a fair a bit of luck.

      • Our competition is just tooooo good. Our up and comer doesn’t see the field. Germany’s goes down with a torn ligament, and is replaced by Muller, or Gotze, or Shurle. Take your pick. Perspective.

        That said, we do have a shot at getting out of the group, we’re playing fairly well, and I am drunk on possibilities.

  17. Great result, HOWEVER, I am concerned with Dempsey! He always plays careless and selfish. Wastes multiple chances…and he is our captain. I love Dempsey but come on dude!

      • Totally agree there Chase & Nate.
        No matter what sport you play if you have that extra wide open pass
        you take it.
        one goal, one team, onward and upward.
        Bomb Pops, will go as far as they believe.

      • Maybe, but Jozy would have had work to do still. Plus, the keeper made a great save on to deny Dempsey.

        It’s amazing that he can be called selfish because of a single play, that really could have gone either way.

      • Didnt Klinsmann in effect call Dempsey selfish? Its the reason he gave him the armband, right?

      • But, I mean, obviously not the only reason.

        Still, I think if this game mattered and/or Jozy hadn’t already got his, Demps would have made that pass.

      • Dempsey has always had a little risk taking in him but I think there is a world of difference between losing the ball deep in the other end by getting fancy or cute trying to playmake, and Jozy losing the ball back to goal retreating at the halfline. You want attacking effort. What you don’t want is losing possession and starting the other side’s attack in the middle third.

    • Let’s be serious. Dempsey was clutch against Turkey. He had a weak game, but it only looks bad in relation to the many good performances by the rest of the team.

    • Being selfish and being a goal scorer pretty much go hand in hand; there are differences in degree. Dempsey has a fair # of assists, as scorers go I think he is only moderately selfish. One of my criticisms of Jozy at Sunderland was that he wasn’t selfish enough. Dempsey is certainly no Robben.

    • i noticed him only when he tried flick passes that were turnovers and after replays where he was pulling up his shorts… many times.

      • Agreed, if we had needed a goal you would have seen ArJo, but Wondo’s tireless running is more effective when holding down a late lead

      • i’m not convinced of this. AJ runs non stop when he comes on. he’s scored two goals for the US late to either win it or grab the insurance tally. so it’s not like AJ has shown to be ineffective off the bench.

    • This 2nd half begged for Iceman. I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have scored if he played the last 20 in Deuce’s role.

      • Agudelo should be on this team over Wondo. That just my opinion. He’s more of a super sub then Wondo

    • I doubt it. I think Wondo started game 1 bc with Dempsey out they wanted to leave most of the planned rotation intact. JK wanted to put people in for certain parts of the game and see how they handled it. If you bump AJ up then you’re no longer seeing how he does off the bench.

      I think Wondo is close to last man off the bench and is here because if necessary he will work his tail off defensively and chase balls, where Landon is defensively soft. He is here to close games.

      More realistically we’ll be fighting for points late in games and you will see AJ because he is a superior player and finisher and will chase the ball just as hard.

    • Not necessarily. AJ will be needed. So, he needs to be saved for the right occasion. There have been a lot of injuries during many of the friendlies. Who knows who pays whom to put players into the hospital? Reminder: Kevin Prince Boateng (Ghana) pretty much ended Michael Ballack’s career.

  18. Beautiful game for Jozy (also nearly had an assist). Would’ve liked to have to seen the US finish a few of their chances, and not have conceded that late PK. But, all around, looked pretty solid and like a very tough out.

  19. I’m still baffled about the Omar Gonzales sub. If Klinsmann leaves the back 4 alone, Nigeria never scores. I never want to see Omar in the USMNT again.

    • A bad run of form and it’s never again? Grow up. Next time you mess up on the job I bet you hope your boss doesn’t do the same to you.

      • He can try again in 4 years but this World Cup cycle he is done. No need or room for him.

      • I think that was the test. Brooks had last games, Omar this. I bet we see Brooks as the defesnsive sub, and hopefully we will be up 2-0, in the World Cup.

    • I think it was a couple things:

      1) If Bradley/Jones/Beckerman are not available, Cameron might be needed at CDM, and someone needs to play, so it was a bit of a tryout (probably a failed one).

      2) If we are up 2-1 in the last 5-7 minutes, Omar isn’t a terrible option if the other team is going to bomb long balls in the box (see last year’s Gold Cup Final)

    • Its nice to go to bed with a smile on your face. Looking forward to getting bits and pieces from the Belgium scrimmage, and watching a lot of games over the next month. Enjoy the night everyone.

  20. 2 negatives jozy haters said about him:

    he missed sitters

    he never gathers, and just takes a quick shot



      • i think you missed my point…..

        i was sarcastically pointing out that Jozy scored in the exact ways his haters have said he cant score.

        he scored a sitter ( that he “misses all the time”)

        and he scored a quick settle-turn-shoot goal (haters say he lacks the will to have a go)

      • And I think you missed mine, but oh well, it happens on message boards. We are likely talking about two different groups of critics, that have some Venn overlap.

      • How many national team games? 3 or 4? That constitutes “a while”? becuase he set a record for consecutive games with goals just last year, so…

      • So you think his Sunderland experience is a more reliable predictor of how the 2013 USMNT player of the year will perform with the National Team in 2014? Well, I guess the straw man in this case is called “perspective”, but please, proceed…

      • Nate:

        (For some reason, I can’t reply directly to your comment.)

        I am not saying any of that. I’m saying that you can’t redefine the argument like that. I was debating whether or not people that say Jozy was missing sitters and wasn’t gathering the ball well were haters, or actually had valid concerns. Sure, the majority of these critiques arose from his playing time at Sunderland, but the debate wasn’t about his NT statistics, it was about whether the doubt and worry displayed by some was warranted.

        Now, if you don’t consider club form at all when thinking ahead to forecasting your NT, well, how do you even know what players to call up in the first place. And for a few months, it did appear that his club form may have drained some of his confidence, even playing for the stars and stripes.

      • Well, the term perspective by definition includes considering all factors. In this case, performance for club and country over a period of time. Limiting the relevant sample size to “a few months” does not seem like the best way to gauge a player’s ability to contribute. Thats why I vehemently disagree with JK’s decision to leave Donovan off the squad. The “few months” just seemed like an arbitrary and unhelpful time period for which to evaluate Altidore’s ability to contribute to the team. After all, there were a “few months” where Dempsey wasnt even seeing minutes for a relegation zone team, while on loan. There were a ” few months” where Bradley wasnt getting regular minutes with Gladbach, villla and then Roma. No one argued that those “few months” proved they were poor players, or showed that they could no longer contribute to the natioal team…

        IV’s point wasnt about whether worry was warranted, he was using “a few months” with Sunderland to make an argument about Altidore’s overall skill set, which you seemed to agree with. But, if you are going to use his lack of goals at Sunderland against him, how is it fair to ignore the 21 he had scored for the Nats up until now? He is #6 all time in US goals, and has the same goals per game ratio as Dempsey. So given thst track record for the US, why is it so important to be criticizing him? Dont the two goals scored today discredit IV’s ENTIRE argument?

      • Your idea about what perspective means, is almost the exact opposite of it’s definition. A perspective doesn’t consider all factors, It is a viewpoint.

        Anyway, If you don’t believe that the question, “What have you done for me lately?” is relevant in sports, we can’t have a debate that I respect.

        I also was upset about Donovan, and thought JK’s choice extended beyond current form, not sure what you’re trying to get at…

        To say that two goals in one game invalidate a positive, middle of the road, nearly political statement, shows your extremism.

        Even though I like your thoughts most of the time, here, you are assuming a lot, and trying to twist everyone’s words into never intended formats.

      • Chad: Haha, it was just as tedious for me, a literal buzzkill. I should have gave up, because if Nate and Recovered Amishman are any indicator, there are a lot of people who won’t understand what exactly I was defending.

        I’ve never said nor implied that Jozy sucks, or will never be an asset. I’m not sure why these folks keep trying to put words in my mouth. I forget how many people, myself included in certain situations, can’t handle subtlety, and instead choose to categorize things as black and white.

      • AMP,
        Not trying to attack you, man. Appreciate your clarifications. I get that Altidore is not perfect, but I don’t think that stating that the criticism is overblown, given all that he has accomplished for the national team at 24 is “extreme” in any way. Take this quote from Michael Bradley:

        “It’s great for him to get some goals, but the reality is that whoever questions Jozy, or whoever doesn’t see what he brings to our team, doesn’t understand soccer,” Bradley said. “I’ll tell you guys that right now. This guy does so much at such a young age he’s given our team so much on so many big days. And so you can’t help but laugh when now he goes through a few games, and he doesn’t get a goal or two, and people start to look and want to throw all the rest out the window.”

        Nor is it “extreme” to think Altidore still has potential. Take this quote from Juergen Klinsmann: “We know we have a striker who had a tough year at Sunderland, but everyone knows he has so much talent, so much potential.”

        Grant Wahl seems to agree as well: “Altidore was just 19 then, and it was impossible not to think the U.S. might have found its first player who could become a world-class center forward. Strong and skilled, blessed with a cannon of a shot, Altidore has always had the potential to break new ground for Americans in the world’s game. We’ve certainly seen it in moments for the national team and during parts of his club career in the Netherlands, if not yet in England… Potential can be a loaded word, but it’s also a synonym for possibility, and on days like Saturday Altidore can see the potential for something special at this World Cup.”

        Chad, hope you got some rest my man.

      • Not entirely. He was not getting sitters. He was getting crap service and hard earned shots called back. Glad he kept it up. He is streaky, but I think this is a good time for a run.

    • its not the formation really, the 4-2-3-1 isnt new, just the use of MB as CAM (LD used to play here some times) and dempsey as LAM (LD used to also play here) and both JJ and KB in the middle. it allows MB to attack, commonly on the counter.

      • Jones and beckerman played very important roles today, which allowed MB a bit more freedom on the attacking side.

      • they both did great today, they’re heatmaps are great too. they played it perfectly and you can tell just by looking at those. both very solid tonight.


        Jones 4, Beckerman 1


        Jones 1, Beckerman 0


        Jones 2, Beckerman 1


        Jones 2, Beckerman 0


        Jones 6, Beckerman 4

        Passing %:

        Jones 80, Beckerman 86

      • It was a great solution to the Jones/Beckerman + Bradley problem that everyone has mentioned—but strangely, I don’t recall anyone ever proposing this solution.

        Jones likes to push forward too much, Beckerman isn’t physical/fast enough. So JK plays them both at CDM and it works brilliantly.

      • yeah i agree. i think everyone was hesitant because of the stigma that it carries from back in 2011. everyone was so annoyed we played three defensively midfielders when in reality they were playing different roles. but it didn’t seem to work at the time. certainly looked good tonight though!

      • I think JJ will be just as important as the players mentioned, he’s a boss and doesn’t get enough credit from people in my opinion! I also thought KB struggled a bit and will against the more athletic teams bc of his lack of pace

      • The formation played more like a 4321

        The 3 being
        LCM – Jones…………….RCM – Bedoya

        Bradley and Demps played free in front of those 3

      • I am a bit concerned about the relationship between Bradley and Dempsey. They usually didn’t connect well and appeared unhappy with each other at times.

      • That’s the best description of the formation I’ve seen (although I’d quibble a little and say 4-3-1-2).

        It looks like, after all of that tinkering, Klinsmann basically combined all of the best elements of the diamond, the flat 4-4-2, and the 4-2-3-1 that we saw in qualifying. Altidore gets a strike partner up to in Dempsey, Bradley gets the freedom to get into the attack and play dangerous passes, the back line gets coverage from multiple midfielders, and the Jones/Beckerman conundrum gets solved by just playing them both along with Bedoya who’s a solid 2-way player. Plus the lack of width that sometimes plagued us in qualifying (as well as our overall lack of speed on the wings) gets addressed by having enough midfielders to cover for Johnson and Beasley/Chandler attacking from the outside back positions.

        I guess, contrary to what some commenters here think, Klinsmann must know what he’s doing after all ;-). The only question now is if it works against stiffer competition than we’ve seen at any point during this cycle…

    • Sorting out the wingbacks — ie, bringing Beasley back — covers the flanks better which means the CBs just have to deal with plays coming at them or crosses from further out. Meat and potatoes.

      It also helps to sit 3 DMs in front of them and basically bunker and counter. You notice the goal happened when they (a) subbed and (b) Nigeria finally got open play to move around in. But when we packed it in they had no idea how to break us down.

      The question will be, can you hold a better team than this bunkering for 90? Will Germany or Portugal get caught out on jailbreaks like this? Or will they bust the bunker and force us to open up, or break up counters more efficiently? Except for a few minutes late this was not an impressive Nigeria side, sorry. Pretty good but maybe worse than every team in our group. I expect our group to be more like Turkey’s level or better.

      • Portugal were for the most part on the back foot against Mexico. I think if the US playes disciplined, they will not get blown out by either Portugal or Germany, and may have a shot at playing both pretty evenly.

      • I think you’re right. Hard to judge the Portugal on the squad they put out against Mexico, though.

  21. Glad he reminded people why he is the second fastest US player to reach 23 goals (Donovan) in history. And he’s 24. Why US fans have such vitriol for a 24 year old with such potential is beyond logic.

    • Because many of these so-called “fans” have likely only been following the team (and football for that matter) since 2010, many have a self-taught football body of knowledge to draw from (and for some real late bloomers–it’s been a crash course at that) and because they are basically football illiterate they attempt to integrate their general sports knowledge and instincts into their newfound appreciation for the beautiful game, failing to realize it is not always a direct translation.

      And also because many of them are 12 and still singing soprano, and don’t know their a€% from a hole in the ground

    • 23 is beyond “potential” age in professional football. It’s put up or shut up time. Adu went off the cliff in that neighborhood and when’s the last time you heard of him?

      The Madness of Jozy is you will have his AZ Period, the last Gold Cup, or this. You will also have months (years?) of him being a useless target striker and not scoring. Sunderland, Hull, etc. Flipsides of the same coin.

      Resolution? He’s a player with certain strengths and definite weaknesses. He’s great all alone in space with the ball settled already, taking someone on. There was an Italy run like this one. He can be good poaching off the hard work of someone like FJ, who gets to the endline and feeds Jozy sneaking near the 6. He does have that nose and some don’t. But he is not a target pivot player, he doesn’t hold the ball well consistently or play as big as he looks. If you play to his strengths like AZ did, he can produce. If you pretend he’s something he’s not and try to run an offense through him, you will tear out your hair and be as bald as Bradley & Son.

      Same player, two sides. I hope he does well for us in Brazil and expect him to play a ton, but let’s not be naive and act like he’s the total package. He can be quite productive in certain situations and useless in others. I just hope one shows up and not the other.

      • Wow. You know soooooo much about soccer.

        To summarize your post: Jozy is streaky.

        If he goes on a hot run in the next three weeks… SO!??! WHAT?!

      • I don’t understand why you feel the need to be so antagonistic. The IV knows his stuff and makes quality comments. If that was all you got out of his analysis, I think you might be reading with blinders.

      • Sorry IV. Did not mean to be antagonistic, but I see your point AMP. I suppose most of what IV is saying seemed so clear to me as to be obvious, and that, while Jozy is not your prototypical or seasoned holdup guy, it’s the role he’s been given. We have to endure the hybrid nature of his play. And I think he’s better at the target forward duties than many give him credit for. For that reason, I thought the analysis was a bit… I don’t know… overdone. I also never saw Jozy as a centerpiece anyway, always saw him as a streaky guy you just have to endure, so this all seemed obvious to me. Again, not trying to pick a fight. Sorry if I’m coming across as or in fact being a d*ck. USA!!

      • Also, watched the game with close friends… at a bar… please excuse the over-familiarity.

      • Haha, yeah, I hear you. His points were pretty obvious to me too, but I felt the need to defend him because he was replying to a comment that made it seem like Jozy is still pregnant with potential, and is being unfairly criticized.

        I think he was just saying that 24 is old enough for us to know that this is who Jozy is, and let’s not kid ourselves into thinking he’s going to grow into the prototypical hold up man so many pine for. He’ll grow, and has over the last year even, but he is not the complete forward, and more than likely never will be.

      • I will come out and say it then. Criticizing the 2013 USMNT player of the year and implying that he will not be an asset for the national team during its 2014 World Cup campaign is not only unfair, its stupid.

        Unless, the criticism is directed towards a very poor season at a very poor club team. if that is true, you should then make the argument that club team performance necessarily translates into national team performance. Plenty of examples of club underachievers standing out for their country and vice versa. Just seems like some people are setting impossibly high, and very selectively applied standards.

      • Nate:

        (again, I can’t reply)

        Who was trying to defend people who said that Jozy would not be an asset?

        I don’t think we are that far apart on this, so I’m not sure why the attacks keep coming.

        I love Jozy, want him to start, and never wavered on that I thought he was our best option at the top. Still, I think people drift too far to one side of the spectrum or the other. I think it’s perfectly fine to be concerned about the 2013 USMNT player of the year, if he hasn’t been playing well for his club, and hasn’t scored for the USMNT in over 6 months. When it looks like his confidence has bled over into his international appearances, I think a little doubt is healthy, and not to be attacked as stupidity or hatred.

      • AMP ,

        These criticisms are beside the point and somewhat gratuitous. I see no need to compare Jozy to other strikers.

        Jozy is what he is at this point. I think most of us accept that he is not Lewandoski or Manduzic or even Mario Gomez.

        This edition of the USMNT is built around a core of players and uses a variety of schemes.
        Individually, the USMNT is still the least talented team in their group so obviously JK has been building a scheme, a system, and a plan, which would allow for the most efficient use of what talents this team does have. And probably, those plans mostly are based on having Jozy at striker.
        All those players, like Jozy, have their strengths and weaknesses. The key is to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.

        The only really sensible criticism is does the player, in this case Jozy, do what his coaches want him to do? Will he play well for the US in Brazil? Nothing else about Jozy is worth discussing.

      • GW: I agree with you, and am not sure where you saw me comparing Jozy to anyone.

        Anyway, I’ve done a poor job of getting my point across, and I’m getting as tired as everyone else at my attempts to clarify.

      • AMP, The original post (in my opinion) was saying for a 24 year old American, the kid has accomplished alot. Potential doesn’t necessarily mean to change who he is as a player. Some time potential is to achieve sustained success for National team and for clubs in Europe. Jozy if used in the right system he has “potential” to put his name in the record books for things like goals scored abroad by and American.

        The comment from Imperative felt harsh considering my interpretation of the orignal post. On a day when Jozy does more right than not, it was a mostly negative comment. There have been plenty of times to criticize Jozy, this is the one time I’d think we might get a break from it. Even if just for a few hours.
        Jozy has his weaknesses, but in this particular game he was used well and played well.

      • Hes not the total package. But I, like Klinsmann, feel he has room to develop into a more complete package. I dont expect him to be Rooney, if that is where you are going with this. I am comparing him to US players. Heck, what was McBride doing at age 24? It was his first year with the Columbus Crew and had not played in a World Cup.. Do you think Michael Bradley was the same player at 24 that he is now? Hardley. He couldn’t even make the bench at Aston Villa. Now, 2 years later, people are calling him the best US player…What was Dempsey doing at 24? First year at Fulham, not even starting, just coming off his first World Cup the year before where he didnt see regular time either. All 3 of thise guys got much better than they were at 24. Not saying it will definitely happen, but certainly, you will agree, the potential is there…

        By the way, Jozy did not play in the last Gold Cup. And I am curious, what tactics did AZ use to play to his strengths? Adu went off the cliff at age 24 (he just turned 25 five days ago…)? Is that what you are predicitng/hoping for Altidore? Strange analogy. Not sure why you bring up Adu in Jozy’s case, as opposed to say, Bradley, but okay…

        As far as his hold up play, that was the one thing he did do fairly consistently at Sunderland. He got his teammates into the play, and folks like Johnson and Poyet praised him for it. He showed up big in the newcastle derby, despite not scoring.

        Arguing that he is “useless” in some situations is equally, if not more naive. Sunderland just isnt very good (Johnson, despite top scorer status, was left off the England 30). Hull wasnt very good. They were teams in the relgation zone with manager and player instability. Not good situations for a still developing, US striker. And lets be real, American strikers, especially, are developmentally behind their European counterparts because they dont experience the day in day out pressures coming up in the States.

        what i want to know is, which US striker IS or WAS the “complete package” in your estimation?

      • I think your point about what other USMNT players were doing at 24 is well made. One thing people need to remember when assessing American players is that because our player development system looks so different from other countries’, our players have different developmental arcs than other players do.

        It might well be true that for most professional soccer players, what you see at age 24 is what you get. But that’s, in part, because those players have been training intensely under the watch of professional clubs since they were elementary school-aged, which means that by 24, they’ve learned everything they can technically and tactically and are just entering their physical peaks. American players don’t have the same intensity of early training and many (although not Altidore) go through the college development system, which, as everyone up through Klinsmann notes, places pretty stringent limits on practice time and has other shortcomings. So the result is that at 24, many of our players still have a lot to learn about the game, have logged fewer high-level game-minutes to apply whatever they have learned, and also have fewer miles on their legs (perhaps the only positive of our system). That means that our players tend to peak later, and can in fact continue to get better in the 24-27 range when other players are solidly in their prime.

        There are a number of players who came up through the American system or some combination of the American and European systems who are examples. Michael Bradley, as you mentioned, is one. For another, look at Matt Besler, who didn’t become a National Team-quality centerback until age 26, but is now holding his own in international competition. Geoff Cameron became a starting RB in the BPL at 26-27. Alejandro Bedoya is still climbing the ranks club-wise at 28. And Clint Dempsey, although past his peak now, had his best seasons at 28-29.

        So yes, a player like Altidore will probably still continue to develop at 24, just like many of his teammates did. The tricky thing for Altidore is that, given that his stints at Hull and Sunderland went so poorly, it’s not clear that a quality club team will take a chance on him. It’s the reason that this year’s World Cup is so important — a strong tournament could give his club career new life by getting him into a system that utilizes his strengths while continuing to teach him.

    • I’d say it’s a good thing we have 4+ players* in contention for MotM in our final game before the WC starts.

      *Jozy, Bradley, Jones, Cameron

    • I thought this was a good performance by a Bob Bradley team which is odd because I swore we fired him and brought in the coach to open the game up.

      I felt like the first half defense and Bradley played well, and Jozy poached the first and then had one of his good individual runs on the second. I think it’s good for him and us he scored because he’s going to play til his tongue hangs out, and we’ll need goals from whereever they can be found. But can we be real? Most of the game he was as sloppy as ever. He scored and when strikers score the flaws are forgotten. But I am not sure Portugal and Germany will be that generous.

      I thought in terms of gamelong quality it was actually Bradley and FJ’s day.

      • I’m not sure where you saw his sloppiness, not saying he wasn’t it’s just that I didn’t see it. What I saw was that Jozy made some good threatening runs throughout the game and could have been in on goal a third time if Clint laid the ball off to him, although I’m not upset Clint took his chance.

      • He had a nice throughball the keeper won, a couple flicks, and the two goals. Other than that I saw him losing 50/50s and getting the ball taken off him, like usual. A decent performance for him but if you step back you see both sides of him. When Jozy scores and we win people tend to forget the downside. When ALL he is doing is losing balls from the back facing his own net — and it happens often enough — we struggle.

        I’d like to see us find someone who is a McBride and run Jozy off him from the wings. People think Jozy is Mcbride but he’s really more like Kenny Cooper. Jozy is better running right at them than back to goal. But that’s not happening this cycle.

      • McBride was a pretty one dimensional player. I think you saw both sides of Jozy in the Turkey game, where he held the ball up well and created chances for others, and today, where he finished. He was unlucky to not get an assist when Clint for some reason stopped running for the ball he put on a platter for him. Lets face it, Altidore is creating more danger in the attack than Dempsey is right now…

        As for him losing the ball “all game” I think you are stretching to fill in your preconceived notion about the player. How has he scored 23 goals and won UsMNT 2013 player of the year if he is so clearly ineffective?

      • I think Clint didna go in hard to an on rushing goalkeeper and defender in this instance because he is wise.

      • I am always critical of Jozy’s game. First goal was no big deal, Dempsey would have tapped it in if he didnt. Second was good though I thought the defender didnt do a good job on Jozy. Still, he buried it. Other that that, there were way too many bad passes and uncontested give aways for my liking. I was quite disappointed that at the end, when Jozy came out, JK did not give any minutes to Aron but instead brought in Wondo. I feel so bad for Bacon cause he is getting shafted here.

      • Alexi Lalas, is that you? I’m just going to venture a guess that you hate Klinnsman.

Leave a Comment