US settles for draw with Wales

The United States could have had three points. The United States should have had three points.

Instead, a poor second half punctuated by a penalty given away with 10 minutes to go left them taking just one point against Wales and walking into Friday’s game against England with pressure back on their shoulders.

Gareth Bale pounded the equalizing goal past Matt Turner in the 81st minute after a sliding challenge from Walker Zimmerman that looked as though the center back had simply forgotten his composure. The Americans had some issues with the officiating earlier on in the match, but this call was not contestable, and the tackle itself was borderline unjustifiable.

Tim Weah celebrates a goal against Wales.
Matt Turner makes a save for the United States
Matt Turner makes a save for the United States

Turner went the right way on the penalty shot, but Bale’s shot had too much on it, and the player who led Wales to its first World Cup since 1958 got them their first goal on the sport’s grandest stage in 64 years.

The second half had just started to settle down for the United States after a slew of substitutions from Gregg Berhalter, but playing with a lead for so long proved more than the Americans could handle in a game that had shades of the group stage against Portugal in 2014, when Cristiano Ronaldo keyed Silvestre Varela’s 95th-minute equalizer.

In the group of death that year, though, such a result was survivable for the United States. It’s not yet clear that this one will be, especially if the U.S. can’t manage to eke out a point against England on Friday.

Regardless, on a night that started in such promising fashion at Al Rayyan Stadium, to get only a draw feels like an unequivocal disappointment.

Tim Weah opened the scoring with a finish slotted past Wayne Hennessey in the midst of a dominant first half. The Americans, faced with a situation where they needed to possess the ball and break down a defense, proved that they could do so in the opening 45 minutes.

Gareth Bale celebrates his penalty shot goal for Wales
Gareth Bale celebrates his penalty shot goal for Wales
Getty Images
The US celebrates Tim Weah's goal against Wales.
The US celebrates Tim Weah’s goal against Wales.
AFP via Getty Images

Wales spent that time ceding space and hoping to catch the U.S. out in transition, betting that their struggles in possession from qualifying would carry over to the World Cup. They did not, and the U.S. was, to a man, quick to the ball and hard-pressing whenever they lost it.

Finally, Pulisic found Weah in behind and the son of Liberia’s soccer hero scored the first goal for an American in the World Cup since Julien Green on July 1, 2014.