The U.S. men's national soccer team will try to make it three wins in a row when they take on Nigeria on Saturday in Jacksonville, their final friendly on home soil before travelling to Brazil.
The Super Eagles have struggled throughout their preparations and are winless since February, so the visitors will be playing for momentum on Saturday.
The hosts may not have looked overly impressive so far, but wins against Turkey and Azerbaijan are just that—wins. Jurgen Klinsmann and his squad will want to finalise their preparations on American soil with a win and give fans one final show before boarding the plane.
Date: Saturday, June 7
Time: 6 p.m. ET/11 p.m. BST
Venue: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
TV info and live stream: The match will be broadcast by ESPN (for U.S. viewers) and BT Sport 2 (for UK viewers), with mobile coverage available via ESPN Mobile and the BT Sport Online Player (subscription required).
Nigeria know all too well how important their match against the USA on Saturday will be, and the team is desperate for a strong result in order to leave for Brazil with some momentum on their side.
Shola Ameobi doesn't believe Saturday's clash will have the feel of a friendly match, via Goal.com's Thomas Floyd:
It's going to be volatile. It's our last game before entering the World Cup so we have to be really hitting top form. The fact that they're at home makes for a great atmosphere.
It's going to take our best game to beat them, and that's what we'll have to bring, that's what we want to do — go into the World Cup on the back of a win.
Obviously the U.S. are a great side and it's going to be tough for us. But we have to make sure we control the game the way we want to, and that's what we're focusing on.
Manager Stephen Keshi echoed a similar sentiment, adding he hopes to see a more cohesive Nigerian side, per Floyd:
I expect a good game from the United States. Klinsmann is going to have this German mentality that they're going to go all the way.
I just want to see my players in better cohesion than I saw [against Greece]. I know as we go along playing our friendly games, correcting the mistakes that we're making, it's going to come alive.
The Super Eagles started their preparations with a solid goalless draw against Mexico but gave up far too many easy chances in a controversial 2-2 tie with Scotland and failed to break down an underwhelming Greek side on Wednesday.
The team seems to struggle finding the link between their athletic midfielders and a front line led by Emmanuel Emenike, and as a result, chances have been scarce.
Victor Moses and Peter Odemwingie have struggled to assert their dominance in midfield so far, and both will be looking to make up some ground when they face off with the USA.
The USA's performances again Azerbaijan and Turkey weren't flawless, but that's why teams play friendlies—to make sure the same mistakes won't be repeated in Brazil.
Against Turkey, the midfield diamond seemed to have issues closing down the spaces just in front of the defence, giving their opponents too much room to operate around the box.
The back line handled the challenge beautifully, however, and offensively, the U.S. put in an all-round strong performance.
This team is clearly stronger when Clint Dempsey if playing, and he made his return to the pitch following his absence against Azerbaijan due to injury. As shared by Squawka, he was fit enough to do this:
Dempsey's ability with the ball at his feet and his keen eye for goal opens up space for other players around the box, as defences have to key in on Dempsey first and foremost.
Combined with Michael Bradley's strong skills as a distributor, the USA simply look like a different team when Dempsey plays. Keeping him healthy ahead of the World Cup should be one of Klinsmann's priorities, and if Saturday's match turns as hostile as Nigeria are promising, an early substitution could be on the books.
As much as the hosts would love to entertain their fans one final time, there is little the team can gain from a physical, emotional match against the Super Eagles. The squad looks to be on the right track ahead of Brazil, and Klinsmann will prioritise health and fitness over a third consecutive win.
Momentum is one thing, but the USA simply can't afford to lose key contributors like Dempsey, Bradley or Fabian Johnson. Expect a competitive first half from both sides, with substitutions coming early and often after half-time.
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