It’s taken some cognitive dissonance for USMNT followers main as much as this World Cup, to kind of ignore the truth that they had been exhibiting up with probably the most inexperienced squad potential. Solely Deandre Yedlin has ever been on a World Cup squad earlier than, and he’s hardly wherever close to the primary 11. It additionally has a supervisor who’s doing this for the primary time, so he’s going to study on the job too (although he shouldn’t be allowed on the job ever once more if he’s going to proceed subbing in Jordan Morris as a substitute of Gio Reyna, however we’ll circle again to that as I wield a mace over my head).
Which implies that they’ll seem like something from one minute to the subsequent. They’ll play a primary half the place they appear poised, in management, and assured. Which they did. Whereas Wales as a rule are at all times going to present an opponent some house to seek out their rhythm, as a result of all they wish to do is defend after which counter, the US discovered extra gears within the engine than Wales most likely needed. They spent quite a lot of time pawing on the Welsh protection, transferring the ball back and forth, however they had been in a position to kick into gear when the house opened. Weston McKennie was transferring out extensive to the correct to each help Sergino Dest whereas additionally permitting Tim Weah to make runs in behind the backline (although he ought to have completed so a contact extra). Christian Pulisic was discovering openings in entrance of the wingback and behind the Wales midfield. He was connecting with Musah and Antonee Robinson and creating little openings for all of them.
What the US did rather well was snap proper to Gareth Bale and Daniel James up high, and to any of the Wales midfield, so on the uncommon event that Wales obtained the ball and regarded to counter they had been smothered. The ball turned proper again over the US to strive once more. Bale can’t actually beat a protection with tempo anymore, and whereas James can he’s additionally…how you can put this?..talentless. The US didn’t should worry getting beat on the flip or by lengthy balls, as a result of they might clear it up. And so they did. Wales may solely clear the ball and arrange once more to defend.
And so they expertly sucked out Wales simply sufficient to do that:
Sargent to Pulisic to Weah and choose that out. It made you marvel what the US may have completed had they moved the ball faster extra usually, however having it underneath whole management was hardly a nasty factor. Positive, they might have performed extra balls excessive to Weah or tried extra faster interchanges, however main 1-0 at half with out going through a shot heading in the right direction and even something shut to at least one, with Gareth Bale merely a rumor, is all the pieces you’d ask for.
However then there’s one other 45 minutes.
In a vacuum, desirous to counter when Wales got here searching for their equalizer is a wonderful plan. Nevertheless it’s a wonderful plan for the final 10-Quarter-hour, not the entire half. And what the US lacks, which Musah or Adams or Reyna may flip into someday however aren’t now, is that midfielder who decides and forces no matter tempo is critical. Within the second half, the US wanted the proverbial man to “put their foot on the ball” and take the air out as Welsh strain grew. Somebody who forces the remainder of the staff to play the ball round, be the discharge valve for the mounting nervousness, and calm issues down. Positive, there have been openings for counters, however you must select them once they’re apparent. The US was in an excessive amount of of a rush at instances to get on the counter when it wasn’t on provide. Simply preserve the ball. The US doesn’t have some midfielder sitting at dwelling who may carry out this service, until they’ll someway de-age Michael Bradley or Maurice Edu 10 years. That is simply what occurs whenever you carry a squad full of kids to this event.
That doesn’t imply there weren’t home windows, and the US simply selected the flawed go too many instances or missed the correct one by simply sufficient to not kill the sport off. At this stage, there isn’t an infinite provide of excellent appears to be like on the break that you simply get. You must select appropriately between firing a cross throughout the six-yard field or going for the pullback. You must join. It solely takes getting one proper to finish a match like this, however a staff has to make that one out of a restricted provide.
All that mentioned, the US nonetheless had Wales at principally arm’s size. Whereas the Dragons had the ball so much, they solely created two probabilities off the identical nook, with Matt Turner saving brilliantly from Ben Davies after which the following nook being headed over by Kieffer Moore when Turner additionally determined to go for a roam that appears to be contagious amongst keepers to this point this event. That was within the sixty fourth minute. Wales didn’t have one other shot…till…
There’s no cause for Walker Zimmerman to make this problem. Bale has his again to objective and he’s contained. However that is Zimmerman’s largest sport of his life, on a stage he’s by no means seen. The chemistry is there to do one thing rash, and voila. It’s onerous to get too offended at him for that, as a result of that is how gamers study, however that is probably the most irritating time to should study a lesson. The US additionally fell asleep on the throw-in proper earlier than this, which is one thing an inexperienced, tiring staff simply does.
Sure, the US ought to have been extra within the face of Wales for the second half. They dropped their traces, and the Welsh midfield had extra time to ping balls as much as Moore the place within the first half each time they took their first contact that they had a Yank up their ass. Moore then was in a position to be a focus to get Wales up the sector and assault. Did the US run out of power? Younger gamers are usually rife with nervous power, which is probably the most draining. There’s no different cause this staff needs to be out of gasoline after an hour.
So now what? It looks like this group will come right down to how badly both or each of Wales and the US can beat Iran and have a goal-difference-off. It’s onerous to see how the US can preserve England out when underneath the cosh for a full 90 minutes, after they let a reasonably restricted Wales aspect develop fairly massive over simply 45 minutes. England will depart extra space for counters, however you continue to should defend first. England have so many weapons from so many angles.
It’s hardly over. It’s simply going to be a tortuous path. However the USMNT has by no means recognized another method.