- The United States’ first game of the World Cup, a 1-1 draw with Wales, is in the books
- Whose stock is up and whose stock is down after the USMNT’s World Cup game? Let’s talk about that
In the end, the 1-1 result was bittersweet for the United States, who looked primed and ready to take three points after 45 minutes. As the U.S. look toward a pivotal matchup against England on Friday, let’s see whose stock rose and fell from Matchday 1.
STOCK UP: CREATIVITY AGAINST A LOW BLOCK
Throughout the past two years under Gregg Berhalter, the US has struggled to create chances against a low defensive block. Wales tried to use that to their advantage today, sitting deep and allowing the US to keep possession in the first half. Wales manager Rob Page’s approach looked similar to Saudi Arabia’s in the September friendlies, which makes sense since the Welshman attended their match against the US.
However, this time the US seemed far more potent offensively. Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic consistently found the ball in dangerous spots in the first half and their linkup for the goal is a testament to that.
Quick combination play put Pulisic exactly where he wanted to be — in space running at defenders — and Weah provided a smart finish after Pulisic’s pass. The USMNT were able to score and dominate the ball at the same time, which we really haven’t seen since the Dos A Cero victory a year ago.
STOCK UP: TIM REAM
In the past few months for Fulham, Tim Ream has been playing the best soccer of his career at the ripe age of 35. Despite not being called up in over a year, Ream continued his form earlier today. His mid-to-long-range passing was precise, which is something the US has severely lacked from their center backs.
His decision-making was even better, especially in the first half. He was able to get the best of Gareth Bale and shut down plenty of attacks from forming. Although Kieffer Moore gave him a bit more trouble in the second half, the grizzled veteran has definitely earned himself a start against England. Long live the man bun.
STOCK UP: TYLER ADAMS
Like Ream, Tyler Adams has also recently been in the form of his career in the Premier League. He also sustained his hot streak today. Adams was all over the pitch, making crucial challenges everywhere and just generally being Tyler Adams.
His industry and astute defensive positioning became particularly important in the second half as he was able to make crucial challenges in the final third. His progressive passing wasn’t great, but he more than made up for it with what he brought on the defensive side of the ball. We could see a lot of suitors coming in for Adams after this tournament.
STOCK DOWN: CONSISTENCY
To use a definitely not tired trope, the game was a tale of two halves and the US only have themselves to blame for that. They had Wales on the ropes in the first half, limiting them to only two shots off target. All they needed to do was keep their foot on the gas and search for a second in the remaining 45 minutes.
They didn’t. The US gave Wales the ball, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they failed to create attacking chances on the counter. Whether it was tired legs or a desire to keep their lead, the urgency going forward was absent in the second half. The USMNT were unable to capitalize in transition, which is unusual for them.
STOCK DOWN: WALKER ZIMMERMAN
The whole of Zimmerman’s performance wasn’t bad — he had a fantastic first half and looked good in the air for a majority of the game. But in the 81st minute, he made a foolish challenge that cost the US their lead.
With Gareth Bale with his back to goal, Zimmerman made a reckless sliding challenge into the back of the LAFC man, conceding a penalty that was eventually put away by Bale. The tackle was a clear foul and Zimmerman has to shoulder part of the blame for the dropped points.
STOCK DOWN: SET PIECES
Even with aerial dominators like Zimmerman and Weston McKennie on the team, the US have been consistently unproductive on set pieces. The biggest problem is that there isn’t a guy on the team that has shown they can give good service. *Cough* *Cough* Pulisic.
Despite that, Captain America was put on every set piece against Wales and you’ll find it hard to pick out a time one of his balls went past the first man. In a tournament, set pieces are crucial, and you only need to look at the US’ 2021 Gold Cup run for evidence. If the US is going to capitalize on dead balls at the World Cup, someone has to pry Pulisic away from set pieces.