U.S. and Sunderland fans united in measured euphoria and relief as striker Jozy Altidore ended his much discussed goal drought for club and country, which has burdened him since December 4 of last year. Altidore's timing couldn't have been more perfect, as he gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead in their final stateside send-off match against fellow World Cup side Nigeria.
His 32nd minute tap-in might have been the most celebrated goal in an international friendly anywhere this year. He then added to the celebration by extending the U.S. lead to 2-0 with a well placed strike in the 68th minute. Nigeria's Victor Moses scored from the penalty spot in the 86th minute to make it 2-1, which ended up being the final score. That gives the U.S. three wins in as many matches before heading to Brazil.
A win or loss in this match was largely irrelevant for the United States. The single event they wanted to happen more than anything else was for Altidore to finally score a goal before getting on the plane to Brazil so he could leave that negative chatter behind. And now he can with his two goals in one match — something many considered near unthinkable a day earlier.
Here's his lovelier second goal...
It's been a very difficult season for Altidore. After setting a new record for goals in Europe by an American with 31 across all competitions for Dutch club AZ in the 2012/13 season, Altidore moved back to the Premier League with Sunderland and scored just twice (only once in the league) this season. He was the subject of jokes and abuse and was even briefly dropped to Sunderland's U-21 team in April before being excluded from the first-team squad for their last two matches of the season.
The 24-year-old handled it all with a remarkable amount of good humor and positivity.
"Everybody is so worried about my confidence — it's unbelievable. My confidence is fine, my man," he said, when asked by a reporter about the cold streak after it reached 27 matches with the U.S.'s 2-1 win over Turkey last weekend. "It's not going to change whether I score a hat trick or I don't score at all."
Altidore echoed that sentiment after the Nigeria game, telling ESPN, "I felt fine before and I feel fine now."
If the U.S. is to put up a fight in their bid to advance past Germany, Ghana and Portugal for a spot in the World Cup's knockout stage, they will need Altidore in particular to build on these goals and keep them coming — especially given their recent shortcomings in defense. But before worrying about all that, even if he says it doesn't matter, Altidore will enjoy this moment like a man drinking his first two pina coladas after 184 days in the desert.
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