The U.S. Men’s National Team opened its 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday night at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Tim Weah scored the USA’s goal in the 36th minute after Christian Pulisic’s dynamic dribbling run and perfect pass put him behind the defense, but Wales equalized on a late penalty kick from captain Gareth Bale in the 82nd minute. Fourteen of 15 U.S. players that saw action made their World Cup debuts against the Red Dragons.
Weah’s goal came during a strong first-half showing from the USA which dominated possession as Wales came out in a low defensive block. The U.S. stood up well against a physical and at times bruising Welsh defense to earn an important point in its World Cup opener.
With the draw, the U.S. is tied for second place in Group B with Wales behind England, which defeated Iran 6-2 earlier today. The USA will square off against one of the tournament’s favorites England on Friday, Nov. 25 (2 p.m. ET; FOX, Telemundo). The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout stage.
The U.S. was on the front foot from the get-go, controlling the match with much more possession and tremendous ball-winning – especially in the midfield – once that possession was lost. After a few early looks on restarts, the USA twice nearly netted the game’s opening goal in the 10th minute. Welsh defender Joe Rodon almost scored an own goal as he tried to clear a dangerous cross from Weah on the right wing, and in the aftermath, Antonee Robinson played to Sargent in the penalty box but his close-range header glanced off the outside of the left post.
Content to sit back, the Welsh rarely crossed the midfield stripe, but both of their early forays into U.S. territory resulted in yellow cards after hard tackles from Sergiño Dest and Weston McKennie in the 11th and 13th minutes, respectively.
Playing a physical, hard-nosed style, the Welsh defense proved tough to break down, but the U.S. was patient in possession. A few long-distance attempts served as warning shots as Dest ripped a shot over the crossbar in the 29th and Weah just couldn’t get his foot on a long ball into the box from Adams in the 35th minute.
The U.S. was finally able to play through the well-organized Welsh defense in the 36th minute. As the ball bounced around in tight quarters near the half line, center forward Josh Sargent was able to control the ball which then rolled into the path of Pulisic. Driving up the middle of the field, Pulisic then slid a pass behind the Welsh defense for Weah, who made an inward diagonal run from the right flank before slotting his shot into the net with the outside of his right foot as the goalkeeper and a Welsh defender closed in on him.
Things opened up in the second half as Wales looked to tally an equalizer. Pulisic and midfielder Yunus Musah combined well on the left side, but even as play was end-to-end, the physicality continued with a number of hard fouls, especially as the Welsh tried to contain Pulisic.
In front of a sea of red-clad fans behind the U.S. goal, Wales had a number of dangerous chances on free kicks and corner kicks, the most threatening coming in the 64th minute. In the aftermath of a free kick into the box, defender Ben Davies headed the ball on frame, but goalkeeper Matt Turner leapt to push it over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner, forward Kieffer Moore’s header flew just over the crossbar.
Wales finally found an answer in the 82nd minute, but it would come from the penalty spot. During a flurry of activity in the middle of the box, a hard tackle from Walker Zimmerman on Bale saw the referee immediately award the penalty kick and Bale hammered it home to draw the Dragons even.
After holding the vast majority of possession throughout the opening half, the USMNT finally broke through the physical Welsh defense when Josh Sargent controlled a bouncing ball just past midfield. The ball rolled to the charging Pulisic and her burst into open space. He pushed the ball forward, cutting past a Welsh defender and slipping a pass past another cluster of defenders to Weah, who slotted home a shot as Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and defender Neco Williams closed in on him.
WAL- Gareth Bale (Penalty Kick), 82nd minute: In the midst of a dangerous attack from the Welsh, Bale received the ball in the heart of the box and was brought down by defender Walker Zimmerman’s tackle from behind, resulting in a penalty kick. Bale stepped up to the spot and fired a powerful strike to the right, beating goalkeeper Matt Turner despite his dive to the correct side.
WAL – Wayne Hennessey, 10th minute: The USMNT’s first real scoring chance came from the head of Welsh defender Joe Rodon. On the run down the right wing, forward Tim Weah brough the ball down beautifully with a deft touch and then sent a dangerous cross into the box on the volley. As Rodon attempted to clear, he sent a header straight at Hennessey, who blocked the shot but was fortunate that it was right at him. In the aftermath of the save, defender Antonee Robinson played it back in to U.S. forward Josh Sargent but his header bounced off the left post.
USA – Matt Turner, 64th minute: As Wales threatened on a number of restarts in the second half, Turner came up big to maintain the U.S. lead. Following a free kick, defender Ben Davies sent a well-hit header towards the middle of the net, but Turner jumped to get a hand on the ball and push it over the bar.