After an eight-year gap from soccer’s biggest event, the USMNT finished their opening group stage game against Wales with a 1-1 draw and secured their first point in Qatar. It wasn’t the result they would’ve wanted given the way the game unfolded but it is ultimately one they can take heading into the next two group games.
USA got on the board first in the 36th minute when Tim Weah found some space and made a run in the middle of the pitch. He darted into the box and got his right foot on a pass from Christian Pulisic, sending the ball into the back of the net. The Americans dominated possession for much of the first half and deservedly held an advantage at the break.
It looked like USA would cruise to a win but Walker Zimmerman made a rough challenge on Gareth Bale in the middle of the box, resulting in a penalty. The star striker made no mistake, leveling the score with about 10 minutes left.
Bale sends the penalty home and ties it for Wales! pic.twitter.com/XCU4Hohfd9— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 21, 2022
There would be nine minutes of stoppage time and the USA nearly gave away a cheap goal at the end of the match. Matt Turner charged out to punch a ball away so the Americans could avoid a potential 1v1 situation but left the goal exposed. Kellyn Acosta took a smart foul in the circumstances, because Bale needed one touch to have a clear shot at the goal.
Gregg Berhalter will have to answer some tough questions after this result, especially with talented striker Gio Reyna not seeing the field for a single minute. The Americans did run substitutes on quite late as well, which may have contributed to some late lapses in the defensive third. Turner was brilliant, but this could’ve easily been a loss.
A draw is not the worst result for USA, who are slightly favored to advance to the knockout round over Wales at DraftKings Sportsbook. This group might come down to goal differential, so the match against England looms large. If the Americans can get a point there, they might not need to rack up goals against Iran depending on what else Wales does in the group stage.