1. Jozy’s back. Did you hear that huge sigh of relief from Jacksonville, FL around the 31st minute of the match on Saturday? That was every U.S. soccer fan after Jozy scored his tap-in goal from a beautiful Fabian Johnson cross. He then proceed to score a grown-man goal in the 68th minute to give the U.S. a convincing win over Nigeria, a solid World Cup team in their own right. Seeing Jozy score the second goal gave every American Outlaw hope that he was finding his form at the perfect time to make the USMNT a threat in Brazil. Altidore’s work-rate has been impressive during each friendly, but we have been waiting for him to take out his frustration and rip a few shots on goal. Let’s hope this is the Jozy we see in Brazil.
2. Defensive consistency. The biggest questions heading to Brazil for the U.S. team have to do the back four. Which four will start? Are they athletic enough to combat the best players in the world? Are they fit enough to beat the heat of summer in Brazil? Will the half man-marking/half zonal marking work on set pieces? There is a lot to process. Luckily, it looks as if the back four is set. Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Demarcus Beasley will hold down the fort in front of Tim Howard. They effectively shut out Nigeria and showed solid communication throughout the match. Once Omar Gonzalez and Timmy Chandler entered the fray, they U.S. gave up a cheap penalty. Coincidence?
3. Beckerman and Jones.When Jurgen Klinsmann released the starting XI prior to the match, most probably thought that it was a misprint. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones playing together in the defensive midfield? How could it work? Don’t they play the same position? They do, it did, and get used to seeing it more. Both performed their roles well, providing a shield to the back four. Beckerman played his classic deep role and cleaned up a lot of messes, while Jones used his athleticism to make plays all over the field. With both playing, the U.S. has it’s best and most consistent lineup.
Special note: Tim Howard reached 100 caps for the U.S. on Saturday. He is an phenomenal goalkeeper and should be lauded as an all-time great when he’s done playing. Not only is he a great player, he’s an amazing brand ambassador for U.S. Soccer and is going to be a solid color commentator once his playing days are over.
What’s next: USMNT v. Ghana, June 16th at 5 pm on ESPN.
- The match against Ghana has more than a result riding on it. The U.S. will want payback for the 2006 and 2010 World Cup exits at the hands of the Ghanians.
- Find a watch party. If you are watching the U.S. play Ghana by yourself, you’re doing it wrong. Bring a friend, attend a watch party, drink a beer (or six) and enjoy this experience. If you’re in Lincoln, NE, head to Barry’s Bar (9th & Q).
- Who will be the third superstar for the U.S.? Dempsey and Bradley are givens, but will the third x-factor be Jozy, Fabian Johnson, or a hard-worker like Graham Zusi?