USMNT, Wales Group B Opener Ends in 1-1 Thriller in 2022 World Cup

USMNT, Wales Group B Opener Ends in 1-1 Thriller in 2022 World Cup originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The USMNT and Wales played to a thrilling 1-1 tie in their Group B opening World Cup match on Monday.

Based on the formations and profiles of each team, the first half developed pretty much as expected.

Gregg Berhalter’s 4-3-3 formation which included Tyler Adams as the primary single pivot midfielder dominated the possession throughout the opening 45 minutes. Center backs Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman stayed patient on the ball and recycled possession well, with left back Antonee Robinson delivering crosses off of overlapping runs to create chances.

Josh Sargent had two key moments in the first half thanks to crosses, one by Robinson and one by Tim Weah, but both were fruitless.

Breaking down Wales’ 5-3-2 low block proved tough for the U.S. without a true creator in midfield, as manager Rob Page seemed content with his side sitting back and looking to attack on the counter.

However, that backfired on Page and Co., as a swift build-up play from the U.S. left Wales’ back line exposed. Pulisic’s speedy half turn carved out the necessary space to find Weah cutting inside, who finished calmly with the outside of his right boot past Wayne Hennessey. The U.S. led 1-0 at halftime.

With Wales in need of a goal, the intensity went up a few gears for both sides in the second half. The Red Dragons also brought on Kieffer Moore as a half-time substitute for Dan James, who provided a big body for Wales to send long balls to evade the USMNT’s high press.

The first big moment of the last 45 minutes went to Wales. In the 63rd minute, Ben Davies’ diving header was just pushed over the crossbar by Matt Turner.

Brenden Aaronson came on for Weston McKinnie in the 66th minute, and Kellyn Acosta, Haji Wright and DeAndre Yedlin all entered in the 75th to provide some fresh legs to a worn-out U.S. side that kept pushing for a second goal.

Forward Brennan Johnson came on for Wales in the 79th minute for right back Neco Williams as Wales looked to go all out, which proved vital as Bale won a penalty after a Walker Zimmerman tackle just a minute later.

Turner dove the right way and got a hand on it, but Bale’s thunderous hit – and Wales’ first World Cup goal in 64 years – to the top right corner was never going to be stopped.

Jordan Morris was the final sub for the U.S. in the 88th minute for Weah, but right after that, Johnson broke through down the right-hand side before firing his shot right at Turner.

Into nine minutes of stoppage time, the best moment came when Bale tried to line up a shot from midfield after Turner stepped out far from his line for a clearance, but Kellyn Acosta made a crucial tackle from behind that earned him a yellow card.

Next up for the U.S. is a game against England on Friday. England thumped Iran 6-2 in its opener and are on top of Group B with three points, with the USMNT and Wales tied with one points apiece.