The United States marked their return to the World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Wales to open their play in Group B. An excellent goal from Tim Weah in the first half was later canceled by a Gareth Bale penalty kick conversion late in the second half as the two sides split points. It's a draw that doesn't feel all that great considering the Americans looked extremely sharp in the opening 45 minutes thanks to a brilliant ball by Christian Pulisic that helped put the team in the lead.
But the second half was a completely different story as the Welsh grew into the game and had Gregg Berhalter's team on the ropes. With under 10 minutes to go, Walker Zimmerman, who had been excellent on the day, carelessly fouled Bale in the box to concede a penalty. Big saves from Matt Turner were needed from Turner on the night, and while he got a piece of Bale's penalty, the shot was hit with too much power to be saved. This may feel like a lost opportunity when three points would've made the Wales-Iran a near-elimination match. Instead, the Americans will lick their wounds and prepare for a Black Friday showdown against England at 2 p.m. ET.
Here are a few takeaways from the match:
Big wake-up call in second half
In Concacaf, this type of performance would've likely been enough to get three points, but mistakes are punished when you're at the biggest stage. This is not qualifying, and all it took was one forgettable tackle by Zimmerman to sour an excellent match as Bale rocketed his penalty into the net.
Bale was dispossessed by Tyler Adams late and kicked by Kellyn Acosta to stop a chance to score an open net go-ahead goal. It goes to show that these moments can go both ways, but the biggest what-if of the night rests on the availability of Gio Reyna.
Back to full fitness for Borussia Dortmund, Reyna's directness could've made a difference at the end of the match when the United States were throwing things forward. But Berhalter used Jordan Morris for Tim Weah as his final sub. He told reporters after the match that Reyna would be available for the England game, which suggests his status was uncertain for the opener. Morris, who was on the pitch for about 11 minutes, didn't have much time to make an impact. He only got three touches and failed to complete either of his crosses. The contribution wasn't good enough in his short time on the field.
Overall, the USMNT are still in fine shape to reach the round of 16, but they did make the job harder. Even if England sweep their matches, the United States would only need to better Wales' result against Iran to make the next stage, so it's not all doom and gloom after this setback. If Wales somehow lose to Iran and England beat the U.S., we could be in for a win-and-go-through match to close the group, at which point the USMNT would still control their destiny.
Pulisic needs to be healthy
The goal for Wales was to kick Pulisic to the ground so he couldn't make an impact. He was somehow officially fouled four times during the match, and for the most part, Wales' game plan worked. But when Josh Sargent headed a ball into his path, and it allowed him to drift centrally, Pulisic shined by dribbling and playing Weah in for the game's first goal.
While his set-play delivery leaves much to be desired, there aren't many players on the national team who are able to break open a game like Pulisic. He completed the match against Wales but was clearly in pain from the sustained challenges. Against England, he'll need to be right back out there dribbling at their back line or chances of getting a victory drop significantly. It's worth monitoring his status with the next game only four days away.
Oh captain, my captain
Tyler Adams was beyond excellent. He was there at every turn when the United States needed someone to break up plays and keep an eye on Bale. He also ensured all of his passes landed in the right place. It's easy to take Adams for granted at times because he's such a consistent performer, but at the World Cup and wearing the armband at such a young age, his star shined the brightest. Adams won three tackles and had two interceptions while helping protect his center backs. Having Tim Ream behind him made things easier as Adams didn't have to over-extend knowing that someone could clean up attacks.
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You can find the complete United States men's national team schedule here, and the schedule for the entire World Cup in Qatar here. Keep up with who's racking up the goals and assists, all tournament long on our World Cup stats page as well.
- Monday, Nov. 21: USMNT 1, Wales 1
- Friday, Nov. 25: England vs. USMNT , 2 p.m. ET (Fox, Telemundo)
- Tuesday, Nov. 29: Iran vs. USMNT, 2 p.m. ET (Fox, Telemundo)