AL RAYYAN, Qatar — It was there for the United States males’s nationwide crew. It was there by the primary half. It was there early within the second half. It was there with half an hour to go. It was there with quarter-hour left. It was there.
Every little thing the U.S. wished to do towards Wales had labored. All of the work they’d accomplished to interrupt down the Welsh block, all the hassle they’d put into containing Gareth Bale and the Wales assault — all of it had had set issues up completely. The situation was what they’d craved: three factors right here, get by the England sport and a superb efficiency towards Iran sends you into the knockout spherical.
It was all proper there for the U.S. Till, abruptly, it wasn’t.
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To be clear: USA 1, Wales 1 is not any catastrophe. No tragedy. As Tim Weah rightly stated, “In a World Cup, a very powerful factor is that we did not lose.” However what occurred to the U.S. on Monday night time delivered to thoughts that outdated Mike Tyson line, the one he famously stated in response to a query about whether or not he was nervous in regards to the plan Evander Holyfield may need for him of their upcoming boxing match.
“Everybody has a plan,” Tyson stated, “till they get punched within the mouth.”
So think about the U.S. punched.
Their plans, and people of probably the most optimistic U.S. followers, completely took a success Monday. It’s going to virtually absolutely take 4 factors to get out of Group B, and barring a shock win over England, the U.S. now face the prospect of a must-win match with Iran to shut pool play.
Is that doable? In fact, particularly if the U.S. are capable of play the way in which they did within the first half towards the Welsh. For practically an hour, the Individuals confirmed poise and presence that belied their collective inexperience. Antonee Robinson and Christian Pulisic had been on fireplace on the left facet. Tyler Adams checked again. Weah and Sergino Dest moved up and down on the suitable flank. Josh Sargent’s sharp header flashed off the submit.
The U.S. objective, too, was idyllic. Walker Zimmerman’s cross began the motion, and Pulisic’s run — one of many few U.S. journeys by the center of the sector — ripped Wales open. His rolling ball by to Weah was inch-perfect, and the latter’s end was a no-doubter, with the Lille man turning to his left and taking off on a celebratory slide. The U.S. appeared in management. Wales had been itemizing.
However then got here the stumble. At half-time, Gregg Berhalter had implored the U.S. to maintain going. To not cease pushing. To be ready for the inevitable flailing Wales had been certain to throw their means.
“We knew there was going to be a second the place Wales was going to vary their ways and throw warning to the wind,” Berhalter stated. “We knew that was going to be a part of it.”
It was. And, for probably the most half, they handled it effectively.
Wales ascended behind the introduction of Kieffer Moore, and the U.S. — deliberately or not — fell too far again behind the ball. When Bale lastly obtained on the ball within the penalty space with 10 minutes to go and Zimmerman made an ill-fated lunge by his again, Wales noticed a sliver of a gap and barged by it.
“We talked about it earlier than the sport — each play issues,” Berhalter stated. “Each single play can have an end result on the sport.”
This one actually did. Matt Turner — who had so little to do within the first half there have been memes circulating on the web that confirmed him sipping tea in his penalty space — appropriately dove to his left, however Bale’s penalty was a comet. The ball rippled the online, Turner slapped his palms on the bottom in frustration and, close to the midway line, Pulisic and Weah — the would-be heroes — stared blankly again on the Welsh followers dancing behind the objective.
This U.S. crew is younger. Everybody on the roster, save for DeAndre Yedlin, has now been concerned in precisely one World Cup sport. The overwhelming majority of this crew has by no means been in any state of affairs even remotely like this one.
Earlier this week, Adams, the crew’s captain, stated that “stress is a privilege.” After Monday, the stress goes up much more. The U.S. crew had grand designs on turning their bevy of precocious abilities right into a stunning run. They performed the primary half towards Wales simply as they wished, and every part was going to plan.
Then they obtained punched within the mouth. Now the one query that issues is that this: How do they reply?