Tim Weah gave the United States a bright start to their World Cup campaign, but Gareth Bale dashed all hopes of three points by converting a penalty for Wales as both teams settled for a draw Al Rayyan Stadium on Monday night.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter’s 4-3-3 formation had its usual suspects along with some notable changes compared with the qualifiers. Tim Ream got the nod over Aaron Long to partner with Walker Zimmerman at the center-back spots. Josh Sargent started as the striker up top with Christian Pulisic and Weah on either side of him. Weston McKennie, Antonee Robinson, and Sergino Dest were in line-up as they overcame recent injuries.
Compared with how the U.S. played in their tune-up games in September, they overwhelmed their opponents in the first half. The first opportunity came nine minutes into the contest when Weah’s cross from the right nearly led to an own goal from Joe Rodon as he headed the ball toward the goal only for Wayne Hennessey’s hand to keep it out.
The pressure did not end there as Robinson sent in a cross from the left side toward Sargent, but his headed attempt at goal went wide of the near post.
The Americans opened the scoring deservedly in the 36th minute. Sargent did well to hold up the ball for Pulisic to scoop up and make a run down the middle. This led to him threading a pass to a streaking Weah who quickly fired his shot past Hennessy to bring the U.S. fan on their feet.
The performance in the first half was great, but the second half was completely different as the Welsh played a more direct style while the U.S. tried to launch counterattacks to grab more goals.
Matt Turner, who did not have much to do in the game, came up big time for the U.S. in the 64th minute when he made a great save on a diving header from Ben Davies. The Welsh came very close to leveling the score seconds later when all 6-5 of Kieffer Moore rose up to head the ball toward the goal, but his effort went over the bar.
Berhalter went to his bench bringing on three subs in the likes of Brenden Aaronson, Haji Wright, Kellyn Acosta, and DeAndre Yedlin, but that did not do much to change the course of the game as the Dragons continued to push for a goal.
Wales got their chance to equalize in the 81st minute when Zimmerman brought down Gareth Bale in the area, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot for a penalty. The man, who scored the equalizer for Los Angeles FC in the MLS Cup final a few weeks back, stepped up and just got his spot-kick past the hands of Turner to tie things up.
Berhalter went to his bench one last time, bringing on Jordan Morris, but he too was ineffective.
Bale then had an opportunity to score a stoppage-time winner for the Welsh when Turner was forced out of his area to head the ball away from danger, thus leaving the U.S. goal wide open. However, Acosta stepped in to make a rough tackle on the former Real Madrid attacker to prevent him from taking a shot.
In the end, the U.S. comes away with a point, but it’s a frustrating one as they could not keep up the same tempo as they did in the first half.
Now, the team will prepare for the big game on Friday as they take on England at the Al Bayt Stadium.