It’s been eight years since USMNT fans had a chance to mysteriously disappear from work on a weekday afternoon and confuse their loved ones and co-workers about unreasonable midweek excitement, but the wait is finally over. Several questions remained to be answered as the USA took on Wales. How would the young players respond to their first real challenge on the world’s stage as a national team? Would the lack of scoring or even competent soccer seen in the last friendlies continue? What shoes would Gregg Berhalter wear?
The USA lined up in a 4-3-3 with arguably its strongest lineup. Sergino Dest starting at right back was a clear statement of intent from Berhalter about the team’s willingness to attack in the match while Tim Ream continued his resurgence at age 35 as a World Cup starter.
Wales began their first World Cup in 64 years in a 3-5-2 with MLS Cup winner Gareth Bale leading the line, Aaron “Remember me? I play for Nice now” Ramsey pulling strings in midfield, and Ben Davis trying to keep things together on the backline.
In the end the Americans would play Wales off the pitch for 45 minutes only to let them off the hook in the second half. A goal before halftime put the USA up 1-0 and it looked like a lead that should have held as long as Wales didn’t make the exact right adjustments and completely throw the Americans off their game in the second half. That’s exactly what happened and a bad foul from Walker Zimmerman gave Wales a late penalty to equalize the game. The Yanks had the better chances, but could create little when a second goal would have put the game away or broken a late deadlock. In the end, the inconsistent performance would be the story of the game as the USA probably played well enough to win but didn’t press their advantage once they had it.
Gifs of.... THE FIRST TIME THE USMNT PLAYED IN A WORLD CUP IN 8 YEARS
The Yanks got two huge chances in the 10th minute when Tim Weah sent a cross toward the Wales net that was nearly headed in for an own goal. The resulting save was recycled for another cross that Josh Sargent nearly nailed in, but was once again saved.
¡JUGADOOOOOOON!— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) November 21, 2022
Ojo a lo que armaron @sergino_dest y Timothy Weah para #USA
EN VIVO por @peacock ➡️ https://t.co/ixOa12w94S
Telemundo la casa de la Copa Mundial #Qatar2022 #MundialTelemundo #ElMundialLoEsTodo #USAvsWAL pic.twitter.com/b0yTPQ97tb
As the half wore on, the Americans put on their best performance in ages as they dominated possession, in the good way that looked dangerous - not the create zero shots way, and kept Wales from doing much of anything. The team’s speed was difficult for Wales to match. Meanwhile, the officials probably gave the USA an edge since it would be difficult for a crew from Concacaf to call a more deficient game.
After Wales played a long ball forward that Bale was dispossessed of, the Yanks poured up field as a pass was played to Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea attacker charged forward and played a through ball to the feet of Timothy Weah who sent a shot smoother than a perfectly buttered Thanksgiving turkey past Wayne Hennessey to give the USA a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
¡GO USA, GO USA!— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) November 21, 2022
Tim Weah tiene a @USMNT ganándole a #WAL.
Mira el JUGADÓN que armaron.
Telemundo la casa de la Copa Mundial #Qatar2022 #MundialTelemundo #ElMundialLoEsTodo #USAvsWAL pic.twitter.com/HU5k0i6Kg3
The teams would see out the half with the USA up 1-0. Upon restarting, Wales made a change to bring in Kieffer Roberto Francisco Moore for Daniel James giving a bigger presence on the field and help hold up the ball when they managed to push forward. Wales also came out more determined to hold onto the ball and create through possession rather than just hit on the counter in the half. In fact, in the first 10 minutes of the half Y Dreigiau out possessed the USA by 37.5%.
Through the first 15 minutes of the half it was a completely different looking ball game. Wales kept possession, the danger the USA was showing in the first 45 had evaporated, but the backline was holding strong. In the 64th minute, Ben Davis sent a plate of jellied cranberry sauce toward goal but MATT TURNER HATES JELLIED CRANBERRY SACUE and tipped the shot over the bar.
With Weston McKennie carrying a yellow card and not fully 100% fit, Berhalter went to the bench and brought Brenden Aaronson into the match in the 65th minute. The US would get back into the game and it became a more back and forth affair as perhaps Wales couldn’t keep up the tempo they’d established to begin the half. The Yanks also started to create more going forward as Aaronson gave the attack a boost.
In the 75th minute Berhalter made a line change as Kellyn Acosta, Haji Wright, and DeAndre Yedlin came on for Yunus Musah, Josh Sargent, and Sergino Dest. A few minutes later, Wales would make a change also with forward Brennen Johnson coming in for right back Nico Williams.
The refereeing would again be a factor in the game as Walker Zimmerman... absolutely cleaned out Bale in the box and was called for a foul in the 80th minute. Gareth Bale stepped up and this time the cranberry sauce ended up in the back of the net as Wales equalized with less than 10 minutes in regular time.
The Americans pushed forward to find a game winner but mostly sent hopeful crosses into the area. Just before the end of regulation, Jordan Morris checked in for Tim Weah as nine minutes were added for injury time. Those minutes would be back and forth and filled with the USA sending the ball forward and hitting a hopeful cross, players of each team falling down and needing to come off to recover perhaps in a bid to waste time, and not much else. Finally, there weren’t enough sweet potatoes, the stuffing wasn’t seasoned well, and the turkey that looked so good and buttery was dry - the last whistle was sounded and the match ended with the USA and Wales splitting the points with a 1-1 draw.