USMNT v Wales final: USA start the World Cup in Qatar with a draw after a late penalty by Gareth Bale

The United States marked their return to the World Cup with a 1-1 draw with Wales to open their Group B game. On excellent goal by Tim Weah the first half was later cut short by a penalty conversion by Gareth Bale late in the second half as the two sides shared the points. It’s a draw that doesn’t feel particularly good considering the Americans looked extremely strong in the first 45 minutes thanks to a brilliant ball from Christian Pulisic that helped put the team ahead.

But the second half was a different story altogether as the Welshman grew into the game and kept Gregg Berhalter’s side on the ropes. With less than 10 minutes to go, Walker Zimmerman, who had put in an excellent performance that day, carelessly fouled Bale in the penalty area to concede a penalty. Turner needed big saves from Matt Turner that night and while he received part of Bale’s penalty, the shot was met with too much power to save. This could feel like a missed opportunity when three points nearly made the Wales-Iran match an elimination. Instead, the Americans will lick their wounds and prepare for a Black Friday showdown against England at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Here are a few takeaways from the match:

Big wake-up call in the second half

In the Concacaf, that kind of performance would probably have been enough to take three points, but mistakes are punished when you’re on the biggest stage. This isn’t a qualifier and all it took was a forgetful tackle from Zimmerman to spoil an excellent match as Bale slammed his penalty into the net.

Bale was late dispossessed by Tyler Adams and kicked by Kellyn Acosta to prevent an open goal chance. It shows that these moments can go either way, but the biggest what-if of the night hinges on Gio Reyna’s availability.

Fully fit again for Borussia Dortmund, Reyna’s directness could have made all the difference at the end of the game as the United States threw things forward. But Berhalter put Jordan Morris in for Tim Weah as the last sub. He told reporters after the game that Reyna would be available for the game against England, suggesting his opener status was uncertain. Morris, who was on the pitch for around 11 minutes, didn’t have much time to make an impact. He only got three touches and couldn’t complete any of his crosses. The contribution wasn’t good enough in his short time on the pitch.

Overall, the USMNT is still in good shape to reach the round of 16, but they’ve made the job harder. Even if England were to win their games, the United States would only need to improve on Wales’ score against Iran to advance to the next round. So, after this setback, all is not murky. If Wales somehow lose to Iran and England beat the USA, we could look forward to a win-and-go match to close the group. At this point, the USMNT would still control their destiny.

Pulisic must be healthy

The goal for Wales was to kick Pulisic to the ground so he couldn’t make an impact. He was officially fouled four times during the game and Wales’ game plan mostly worked out. But when Josh Sargent headed a ball in his path that allowed him to drift centrally, Pulisic shone by dribbling and playing Weah to the game’s first goal.

While his set-piece performance leaves a lot to be desired, there aren’t many players in the national team who are capable of breaking up a game like Pulisic. He finished the game against Wales but was clearly in pain from the ongoing challenges. Against England he needs to be back out there and dribble down the back line or the chances of a win drop significantly. It’s worth keeping an eye on his status as the next game is only four days away.

Oh captain, my captain

Tyler Adams was beyond excellent. He was there at every turn whenever the United States needed someone to interrupt games and keep an eye on Bale. He also made sure 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, its star shone brightest. Adams won three tackles and had two interceptions while helping to protect his centre-backs. Having Tim Ream behind made things easier as Adams didn’t have to strain himself knowing someone could eliminate attacks.

Interested in more World Cup coverage? Listen and follow below House of Championsa daily football podcast from CBS Sports bringing you top-notch analysis, commentary, recommendations and more during the big games in Qatar.

Schedule

You will find the complete USA men’s national team schedule hereand the Full Qatar World Cup schedule here. Stay up to date on who is racking up the goals and assists throughout the tournament on our Also the World Cup statistics page.

  • Monday 21 November: USMNT 1, Wales 1
  • Friday, Nov. 25: England vs. USMNT, 2pm ET (Fox, Telemundo)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 29: Iran vs. USMNT, 2 p.m. ET (Fox, Telemundo)

ranking

GROUP B MP WDL DG PTS
England 1 1-0-0 +4 3
United States 1 0-1-0 0 1
Wales 1 0-1-0 0 1
Iran 1 0-0-1 -4 0


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