Film Focus: Reviewing USA vs. Nigeria as Jozy Altidore Carries USMNT to Victory

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIJune 8, 2014

"How does it feel to be Jozy Altidore again?"
"How does it feel to be Jozy Altidore again?"USA TODAY Sports

You may have heard that it has not been the best year of United States men's national team striker Jozy Altidore's life these past 12 months.

Altidore spent the past Premier League season in Sunderland, not a glamour EPL destination in the best of circumstances. For Altidore, though, the Stadium of Light held a lot of darkness this past year.

By the end of Sunderland's survival-from-the-drop miracle, Altidore had fallen out of Black Cats manager Gus Poyet's starting XI.

The American forward lost his job to somebody named Connor Wickham, who sounds rather more like an uncredited extra in a James Bond film or a lesser-known member of One Direction than a football player.

Altidore was very popular with his teammates against Nigeria.
Altidore was very popular with his teammates against Nigeria.John Raoux/Associated Press

None of this could have been welcome news to American national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Presumably, any realistic scenario Klinsmann wishfully devised for the Americans to squeak past either Germany or Portugal to reach the knockout stage of the coming World Cup included Altidore pounding goals home. Tales of Altidore missing the target from six yards were far from encouraging.

And yet, what could Klinsmann possibly do but keep penciling Altidore's name onto his team sheet and into his XI with the World Cup now mere days away? To paraphrase the eloquent Rick Pitino, Landon Donovan isn't walking through that door

Klinsmann is doubtlessly breathing easier now after Altidore scored both of the Americans' goals in a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the men's national team's final friendly tune-up before heading to Brazil.

"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," noted the Associated Press (h/t ESPN FC).

Altidore's first goal was exactly the sort of slump-buster the enormous American has surely been craving for months. A fire hydrant could have converted Johnson's cross, and let's all just agree not to mention that if Altidore had somehow missed it then Clint Dempsey was right behind him to clean it up.

For a hungry striker, though, that saltine surely tasted like a Ritz cracker (note: language NSFW).

Now we leave the sort of snarky portion of the review of Altidore's performance behind, as his second goal was world class, top drawer, take-your-pick-of-superlatives good.

Altidore ran under Michael Bradley's 30-yard pitching-wedge stroke like American footballer Calvin Johnson retrieving a Matthew Stafford pass, controlled it deftly, turned Nigerian defender Joseph Yobo inside out and struck a hateful, vicious shot past goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

"I love you, man."
"I love you, man."John Raoux/Associated Press

No kidding, Altidore's second goal was a bomb. Enyeama had no chance.

The Americans' three friendly victories over Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria (the last two by the same 2-1 score) are not going to change the world's mind about their chance of surviving this, their latest World Cup "Group of Death." had the Americans at 14-1 to survive the group before this latest win, and you can get the Yanks for 15-1 to make the knockout stage as of this writing.

If you support the Americans, Altidore's announcement that the new boss is the same as the old boss is both welcome and a reason to get excited.

For the sides facing the Americans, well, it is an old threat to account for. Again.