How the U.S. reply to Wales draw will determine World Cup destiny

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — It was there for america males’s nationwide group. 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 part the U.S. needed to do towards Wales had labored. All of the work they’d executed to interrupt down the Welsh block, all the trouble 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, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

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To be clear: USA 1, Wales 1 isn’t any catastrophe. No tragedy. As Tim Weah rightly mentioned, “In a World Cup, crucial factor is that we did not lose.” However what occurred to the U.S. on Monday evening delivered to thoughts that outdated Mike Tyson line, the one he famously mentioned in response to a query about whether or not he was fearful in regards to the plan Evander Holyfield may need for him of their upcoming boxing match.

“Everybody has a plan,” Tyson mentioned, “till they get punched within the mouth.”

So take into account the U.S. punched.

Their plans, and people of probably the most optimistic U.S. followers, completely took successful Monday. It’ll nearly 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? After all, particularly if the U.S. are in a position to play the way in which they did within the first half towards the Welsh. For almost 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 appropriate flank. Josh Sargent’s sharp header flashed off the submit.

The U.S. purpose, too, was idyllic. Walker Zimmerman’s move began the motion, and Pulisic’s run — one of many few U.S. journeys by the center of the sphere — 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 manner.

“We knew there was going to be a second the place Wales was going to alter their techniques and throw warning to the wind,” Berhalter mentioned. “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 mentioned. “Each single play can have an final result on the sport.”

This one definitely 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 web, 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 purpose.

This U.S. group 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 group has by no means been in any scenario even remotely like this one.

Earlier this week, Adams, the group’s captain, mentioned that “strain is a privilege.” After Monday, the strain goes up much more. The U.S. group 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 needed, and all the things was going to plan.

Then they obtained punched within the mouth. Now the one query that issues is that this: How do they reply?