Preview: USMNT v Nigeria

The U.S. Men’s National team plays its final domestic World Cup warm-up friendly against Nigeria on Saturday. Coming off two wins, against Azerbaijan and Turkey, fans are still not happy. The Azerbaijan win wasn’t good enough from an attacking perspective, and the Azeri weren’t real competition. Turkey cut the U.S. apart defensively, and exposed the U.S.’s weak underbelly. That’s the narrative, anyway. With one last game to get things right before heading to Brazil, what can fans expect to see against Nigeria?

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Fabian Johnson ripping shots: Johnson has very quickly and very assuredly made the right back position his own. Against Turkey, his aggressive give and go with Michael Bradley created the first U.S. goal after an emphatic and technically difficult finish by the German-American. That was, shockingly, Johnson’s first international goal, and while playing in defense doesn’t necessarily lead one to score often, when Johnson is involved in the offense, good things are happening for the U.S. It means that there are a good number of men forward and that the team is playing at speed. Those are the two things that will create goals for the U.S.

Good hold-up play from Jozy Altidore: Altidore failed again to get a goal against Turkey, but his overall game was much improved. His touch improved and his intelligence with the ball was better. His movement was as good as always. In short, if he keeps playing like that, the goals will come. Clearly more comfortable in the U.S. team than he has ever felt in Sunderland, the player’s confidence appears to be returning, and that augurs well for the U.S. attack.

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Cavalier defending: Timmy Chandler, here’s looking at you, kid. While Chandler’s recovery speed and strength on the ball were generally positives, by the end of the game he seemed to have lulled himself into a false sense of security, dallying on the ball long enough to be dispossessed. That turnover led directly to the penalty kick that gave Turkey its goal, and Chandler needs to cut it the heck out. DaMarcus Beasley seems to have fallen behind Chandler in the pecking order at left back, but don’t be surprised if the older, wiser player eventually gets on the field. Good defending is not all about athleticism.

Bad defensive discipline/awareness: Turkey had multiple opportunities to score against the U.S., and nearly all of them were down to the U.S. doing a poor job of regaining defensive shape after a turnover. Seemingly too concerned with scoring goals themselves, the U.S. players didn’t do a good enough job of tracking runners around and into the box, and could easily have given up multiple goals if the Turks had better finishing.


Nigeria played out a scoreless draw against Greece in PPL park on Wednesday, and reports of the game were that it was wide open. Greece had the better of the chances early on, but Nigeria grew into the game in the second half, with Victor Moses a somewhat toothless danger from the wing. Nigeria also drew with Scotland earlier in the week, 2–2.

The Nigerian team is athletic and powerful and direct. As Eli noted, in this video on, if the U.S. allows those direct Nigerian attackers to get up to speed, it could create problems for a retreating U.S. defense. However, if the U.S. presses higher up the field and takes care of the ball, it should have the ability to neutralize the Nigerian attack and get at its defense.

Final thoughts

Uproar over Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the World Cup roster has begun to quieten, but a poor performance would bring it back with a vengeance. Jurgen Klinsmann seems to be zeroing in on his preferred starting 11 and, while he continues to state that guys are still fighting for starting spots and the team is still working things out, the men who line up for the opening whistle on Saturday stand a very good chance of doing so on June 16 against Ghana.

Prediction: 2–0 to the U.S. This team has the capacity for more goals, but until it’s striker really hits his stride, don’t expect more than a couple at any one time. Nigeria are a good team, but the U.S. should have more than enough to defeat them. The clean sheet is equally important, as this defense needs confidence. A good result will go a long way toward giving the U.S. just that as it heads south.


  1. lastguyoffthebench says:

    Prediction: Nigeria 2, US 1…

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised at a draw, or a 2-1 US win. It will be a good game.

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