The U.S. men’s soccer team’s 2022 World Cup record remains unblemished after drawing 1-1 with Wales and 0-0 with England.
United States vs. Wales: Too Young? No Problem.
An electrifying crowd dominated the atmosphere as the USA team took the World Cup stage for the first time in eight years. With an average of 25.2 years old, the U.S. has the second youngest team in this year’s edition of the World Cup, just behind Ghana. The youthful legs of the United States allowed the team to play with unmatched energy and pace against Wales.
Captained by 23-year-old New York native Tyler Adams, the Americans took a confidence-boosting one-goal lead to close the first half. The opening seconds of the 35th minute saw Chelsea star Christian Pulisic weave a pass through four defenders on a counterattack, finding Tim Weah. Weah, son of Liberia’s president and former soccer star George Weah, fulfilled his father’s dream of playing at the World Cup. His cleverly placed strike stitched the back of Wales’ net nine minutes before halftime and would sustain the U.S. heading into the closing 10 minutes of the fixture.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter’s rejuvenated side dominated with 59 percent of possession in a physical game. As the U.S. accumulated four yellow cards in the game, the squad’s most in a World Cup match since 2022, their physicality contained Welch star Gareth Bale and held down the fort on the defensive end. However, the Welchmen’s belligerence on the attacking front in the second half was on full display as Wales head coach Rob Page made the necessary tactical adjustments.
The adjustments played to their advantage when U.S. defender, Walker Zimmerman, fouled Bale in the penalty box in the 82nd minute. Bale, who won the 2022 Major League Soccer Cup during his first stint playing for Los Angeles Football Club, would rifle the football past Arsenal keeper Matt Turner.
Zimmerman commented on his tackle after the game, saying “I wish I would have seen him out of the corner of my eye when trying to clear the ball, but it was instinctive. It was quick. And I’m a little bit frustrated by that. But sometimes those plays happen.”
One instinct would relinquish one goal in one second, and sights to advance were now dashed. The disappointment of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup will now be followed up by an unsatisfactory group stage performance depending on their next two performances. The odds of beating their second opponent, the 2018 semi-finalists, England, were slim to none. However, a victory wasn’t needed. A draw, although not perceivable by the masses, would suffice.
England vs. United States, Football vs. Soccer
The debate over the name of the world’s most famous sport will continue. The U.S. drew with England 0-0 in the highly anticipated matchup.
Zimmerman found redemption for his penalty box tackle on Bale when he blocked an on-target shot from Tottenham Hotspur superstar Harry Kane just under 10 minutes into the game.
By sight, the presence of England fans swallowed the patriotic faithful. However, the shouts from Buckingham seemed impervious to the youthful resolution of the States’ men. The betting odds were forsaken, and the U.S. attacked as if they were even to The Three Lions.
Berhalter decided to change the striker position, replacing Josh Sargeant with Haji Wright. Wright made his first international appearance this year, and his fifth would be a start in his first World Cup appearance.
A dominant attack led by Wright, Weah, Pulisic, and Weston McKennie stunned the Englishmen. What was supposed to be an easy feat left them with cold feet as the U.S. took 10 shots, initiating bolstering counterattacks throughout the match.
A cross from Weah in the 25th minute landed on an unguarded McKennie directly in front of the goal. McKennie missed the promising opportunity. Seven minutes later, a Pulisic shot ricocheted off the crossbar.
Their attacking drive persisted, resulting in seven corners for the game. Pulisic went from player to orchestra conductor when he walked over to the corner flag with his hand raised, signaling the U.S. faithful to drown Al Bayt Stadium with enthusiastic and exuberant shouts.
England was conspicuously more robust in physicality, but the U.S. was drenched with strength in spirit, granting them a surprising 45% of the possession.
“The performance of the USA was subpar but still better than their norm,” said Basim Robertson, junior human performance major at Howard University.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner grew up desiring a career in baseball until the 2010 World Cup changed his heart posture. Twelve years later, his saves of England’s three shots on goal proved why he is the starting keeper for the United States Men’s National Team and Arsenal. Arsenal is leading the English Premier League.
His number would be called in the final minute of stoppage time when England earned the last set-piece opportunity of the game. Kane would make Turner’s job easy as his header sailed over the goal.
After 94 minutes of grit on both ends, the result of the soccer match, or football, was a stalemate. A draw was an early Christmas gift for the Americans, but the players felt the game was theirs.
“It felt like we dominated the game,” McKennie told reporters after the game. “Obviously it sucks that we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and come out with the win, and three points.”
“We didn’t feel like an underdog at all,” McKennie added. “Because we know our capability. We know what we can do.”
Forget What They Can Do, What Do They Need To Do?
The opening results stain U.S. hopes for advancing to the knockout stage. However, to prevent elimination from their first World Cup in eight years, the 16th-ranked U.S. team has one job: beat Iran.
If they advance, this would be the fifth time since 1994 that the U.S. has reached the knockout round.
Heading into the World Cup, U.S. star and the youngest player to ever score for the U.S. national team, Pulisic, believed the team could replicate and surpass the national team’s 2002 World Cup run to the quarterfinals.
“We’re going to go in with the mentality and mindset of wanting to win the World Cup. That’s exactly where our heads are going to be at, and we’re going to go in and believe it. Because if you believe, I think you can do it,” he said in an interview with FOX Sports in July.
The United States’ youthful squad has displayed an all-around game but needs to capitalize on their chances if Pulisic’s belief is to become a reality.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew