JACKSONVILLE (AP) — Jozy Altidore ended a six-month scoreless streak with a pair of goals, leading the United States over Nigeria 2-1 Saturday night in the Americans’ World Cup send-off match.
Altidore tapped in Fabian Johnson’s cross in the 31st minute on a play that started with an Alejandro Bedoya run, stopping a 27-match scoreless streak for club and country with his first goal since Dec. 4 for Sunderland against Chelsea.
He doubled the lead in the 68th, running onto Michael Bradley’s looping 30-yard pass over the defense. Altidore took a touch with each foot as he cut inside of Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo, then beat goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama with a right-footed shot from 12 yards.
The U.S. was undefeated in its send-off series for the first time since it started in 2002, beating the African champions following a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan and a 2-1 win over Turkey.
Making their seventh straight World Cup appearance, the Americans head to Brazil on Sunday night and open June 16 against Ghana, the team that eliminated them from the last two tournaments.
Tim Howard made his 100th international appearance, becoming the 15th American male to reach the century mark and tying Tony Meola for second-most appearances by an U.S. goalkeeper, two behind Kasey Keller.
Victor Moses converted an 86th-minute penalty kick for Nigeria after he was knocked over in the penalty area by Matt Besler.
A crowd of 52,033 watched an exhibition that began with an 84-degree temperature and 65 percent humidity that should be similar to the climate in Brazil.
Altidore’s confidence had been a subject of debate since the team started training at Stanford, California, in mid-May. A year he scored 31 goals for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands and set a season record for an American with a European club, he scored just twice for Sunderland.
It was his first multigoal game since a hat trick in an exhibition against Bosnia-Herzegovina last August, part of an American record five-game scoring streak that ended a 19-month stretch with an international goal. June 7 has become a favorite date for the 24-year-old: He scored on that date at Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier last year and against Canada in an exhibition in 2011.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann changed his midfield once again, inserting Kyle Beckerman into the starting lineup alongside Jermaine Jones following a shaky American defensive performance against Turkey. Beckerman was at the base of the diamond much of the time, with Jones pushing wide left alongside Michael Bradley in the center of the midfield and Dempsey on the right.
Bedoya, who started last month’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan and was replaced by Brad Davis for last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Turkey, was back in the lineup. Graham Zusi joined Davis on the bench.
DaMarcus Beasley returned at left back in place of Timmy Chandler, who started against the Turks.
The Americans are in one of the tougher World Cup groups, following the Ghana match with games against fourth-ranked Portugal and second-ranked Germany.
Nigeria has not reached the second round since 1998. The Super Eagles, coming off consecutive exhibition draws against Scotland and Greece, open June 15 against Iran, then play Bosnia-Herzegovina and two-time champion Argentina.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- SportsLine’s Top Weekend Picks: NBA, NHL Playoffs And MLB Action
- Dolphins Players Optimistic About Culture Change, Youth Movement On Defense
- Police: Incognito Threw Weights Before Hospitalization
- Rockets To Honor Texas School Shooting Victims Before Game 5
- Capitals, Ovechkin Finally Heading To The Stanley Cup Final