Besler vs. Nigeria

Jozy Altidore scored twice as the United States beat Nigeria 2-1 on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida to finish its three-game Sendoff Series with a perfect record.


Next stop for the Americans is Brazil, where they will make their seventh straight appearance in the FIFA World Cup.


Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler played the full match and midfielder Graham Zusi entered in the 60th minute. Besler and Zusi featured in each of the pre-tournament friendlies, earning five starts between them.


Saturday’s playing conditions at EverBank Field—temperatures in the mid-80s and humidity at 70 percent—offered both teams a feel of how it will be playing in tropical Brazil.


Midfielder Michael Bradley breathed life into the match after 23 minutes when his low, long-range blast was tipped away by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.


Altidore had not scored for the U.S. since October 2013 but broke his six-match international draught in the 32nd minute. Alejandro Bedoya, who replaced Zusi in the starting lineup, played a through ball to Fabian Johnson on the right side of the box. The German-American then squared it low to Altidore who tapped in with ease.


The goal snapped Altidore’s 28-game goalless streak for club and country, as he has not scored for English Premier League side Sunderland since December of last year.


Despite an edge in possession, Nigeria struggled to break down the U.S. defense. Midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones dropped just in front of centerbacks Besler and Geoff Cameron when the visitors had possession, providing more defensive cover than in the previous two games.


The Super Eagles created their first chance just before halftime. Defender Efe Ambrose’s header off a corner kick was bound for the left corner, but goalkeeper Tim Howard got low to smother it. Howard became the 15th player in U.S. history to receive 100 caps and tied former Kansas City Wizard Tony Meola for second-most appearances by a U.S. goalkeeper, two behind Kasey Keller.


Zusi replaced Bedoya at the hour mark for his 23rd cap, and Altidore completed his brace eight minutes later. He chested down a lofted pass from Bradley, cut past a Nigerian defender in the box and struck powerfully past the keeper.


Besler’s 17th cap nearly ended in a shutout, but Victor Moses buried an 86th-minute penalty kick to cut Nigeria’s deficit in half. The visitors never threatened again, and the U.S. improved to 12-1-3 when Besler starts.


The Americans’ three-game winning streak is their longest ever entering a World Cup.


The U.S. travels to its training base in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Monday, one week before its first World Cup group stage match. Based on the newest FIFA rankings, Group G is the second-toughest group in the tournament. The U.S., ranked 13th, faces No. 37 Ghana on June 16 before matches against fourth-ranked Portugal on June 22 and second-ranked Germany on June 26.

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