Considering where the United States were at the end of two friendlies a couple of months ago, that was by far a very positive first step for a young team. Wales scored a late penalty to cancel out a great opening US goal and the points were shared 1-1 to wrap up the first day of Group B play.
Yes, the USMNT fell off in the second half and didn’t fully capitalize on their great first half, and the game as a whole was chippy, choppy and called incredibly inconsistently from the center referee... but for a team that could have started this tournament on the wrong foot, they got a lot right today.
— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) November 21, 2022
U.S. had 3 shots and 0.13 xG in the second half.
Half of Wales' xG was the penalty. pic.twitter.com/8M4JFA8C4E
This however is a problem, the USMNT simply needs to generate more scoring chances. They were horrid on set pieces with Pulisic’s corner service lacking in particular and still have problems getting past a low block, organized backline without a true target forward to aim at. The US can put a lot of balls into the box, but unless these are early crosses to runners on the attack, it’s always going to be difficult for Josh Sargent and the other true strikers to win those balls and get them on goal.
But I think the numbers tell us what we already knew - this was a really even contest and the USA made one true mistake and got punished for it. Which is something you expect to happen at this level. This was not a bad first step for this group at a World Cup level but the next step against England has to be perfect.
Tyler Adams was everywhere today, the US moved the ball really well in tight spaces especially in the first half and Matt Turner came up big on an open header in the second half to keep the US in front. Obviously the penalty hurt, but not getting the second goal in the first half probably hurt more in the long run after Wales stabilized and fully deserved their equalizer.
TIM WEAH THE LEGEND
This was a moment I didn’t know if the US was going to have at all in this tournament:
THE @USMNT TAKES THE LEAD— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 21, 2022
TIM WEAH PUTS USA ON TOP pic.twitter.com/vinlFUxWGZ
I mean that is a world class sequence from the United States there leading to a gorgeous outside of the boot finish from Tim Weah who becomes the first player to score against Wales in a World Cup since Pele himself back in 1958. This is the potential that the US has from the run of play and we just don’t see it often enough. The build up sometimes is too slow but this was perfectly orchestrated chaos with Pulisic taking over from Sargent’s hold up play in the middle of the field and undoing the Welsh backline with a simple through ball.
But for all the beauty in from that open play, the USMNT just didn’t generate enough of those types of chances and have struggled to do so long before this game. Just three total shots in the first half with Josh Sargent’s early go not finding the target. Wayne Hennessey in the Welsh net did not have a lot to do and that is an issue the Americans need to address in their remaining games to find attacking players on the run and in space to create big opportunities.
OUT ADJUSTED AT THE HALF
This is normally the Gregg Berhalter special, but it was Wales who made the proper change at the half, bringing in target striker Kieffer Moore who added a disruptive element to the much more wide open second half. The US defense had to deal with a lot more contested balls in the air, and eventually got their rewards for sustained pressure when Zimmerman when through Gareth Bale to set up a penalty.
Bale sends the penalty home and ties it for Wales! pic.twitter.com/XCU4Hohfd9— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 21, 2022
Chin up Matty, that is an absolute laser you did get your hand on there. I do think that Berhalter made good subs, though Gio Reyna would have been the clear going for the win substitute especially after the equalizer. For all the good the US system can do, dealing with a 6’5’’ center forward was going to cause problems for the American’s backline. There was no true clear cut chance for the US on the counter with their lead despite a lot of opportunities to make simple passes on attacking runs.
This game was an absolute battle with a lot of players struggling at the end and I don’t think the point is undeserved.
THE PATH AHEAD
The bad side to this point for both the USA and Wales is it opens up goal difference as a possible avenue out of the group as the second place team. After England’s demolition of Iran in their opener, the Three Lions taking all nine points in their group games is a stronger possibility than it was a few hours ago.
This means either getting a result with England, or running it up on Iran while also limiting the damage England does against you and that’s a ridiculously tricky game to play. The easiest path for both teams was a win over the other and that’s off the table. Four points is never a guaranteed entry into the knockouts, which makes getting that fifth point off England the goal now and the US gets the first attempt on Friday while Wales plays Iran.