AL RAYYAN, Qatar-- It was there for the United States men's public platoon. It was there through the first half. It was there beforehand in the alternate half. It was there with half an hour to go. It was there with 15 twinkles left. It was there.
Everything theU.S. wanted to do against Wales had worked. All the work they had done to break down the Welsh block, all the trouble they'd put into containing Gareth Bale and the Wales attack-- all of it had had set effects up impeccably. The script was what they'd craved three points then, get through the England game and a good performance against Iran sends you into the knockout round.
It was each right there for theU.S. Until, suddenly, it wasn't.
To be clear USA 1, Wales 1 is no disaster. No tragedy. As Tim Weah correctly said," In a World Cup, the most important thing is that we did not lose." But what happed to theU.S. on Monday night brought to mind that old Mike Tyson line, the bone he famously said in response to a question about whether he was upset about the plan Evander Holyfield might have for him in their forthcoming boxing match.
" Everyone has a plan," Tyson said," until they get punched in the mouth."
So consider theU.S. punched.
Their plans, and those of the most auspiciousU.S. suckers, absolutely took a hit Monday. It'll nearly surely take four points to get out of Group B, and barring a surprise palm over England, theU.S. now face the prospect of a must-have- palm match with Iran to close pool play.
Is that realizable? Of course, especially if theU.S. are suitable to play the way they did in the first half against the Welsh. For nearly an hour, the Americans showed poise and presence that belied their collaborative inexperience. Antonee Robinson and Christian Pulisic were on fire on the left side. Tyler Adams checked back. Weah and Sergino Dest moved over and down on the right hand. Josh Sargent's sharp title flashed off the post.
TheU.S. thing, too, was idyllic. Walker Zimmerman's pass started the movement, and Pulisic's run-- one of the manyU.S. passages through the middle of the field-- ripped Wales open. His rolling ball through to Weah was inch-perfect, and the latter's finish was a no- questioner, with the Lille man turning to his left and taking off on a celebratory slide. TheU.S. sounded in control. Wales were listing.
But also came the stumble. At half- time, Gregg Berhalter had supplicated theU.S. to keep going. To not stop pushing. To be prepared for the ineluctable flailing Wales were sure to throw their way.
|The U.S. conceded late in their World Cup opener and were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against Wales. Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images|
" We knew there was going to be a moment where Wales was going to change their tactics and throw caution to the wind," Berhalter said." We knew that was going to be part of it."
It was. And, for the utmost part, they dealt with it well.
Wales mounted behind the preface of Kieffer Moore, and theU.S.-- designedly or not-- fell too far back behind the ball. When Bale eventually got on the ball in the penalty area with 10 twinkles to go and Zimmerman made an ill- fated submerge through his reverse, Wales saw a splinter of an opening and slogged through it.
" We talked about it before the game-- every play matters," Berhalter said." Every single play can have an outgrowth on the game."
This one clearly did. Matt Turner-- who had so little to do in the first half there were memes circulating on the internet that showed him belting tea in his penalty area-- rightly dove to his left wing, but Bale's penalty was a comet. The ball gurgled the net, Turner slighted his hands on the ground in frustration and, near the halfway line, Pulisic and Weah-- the would- be icons -- goggled blankly back at the Welsh suckers dancing behind the thing.
This U.S. platoon is youthful. Everyone on the canon, save for DeAndre Yedlin, has now been involved in exactly one World Cup game. The vast maturity of this platoon has noway been in any situation indeed ever like this bone before this week, Adams, the platoon's captain, said that" pressure is a honor." After Monday, the pressure goes up indeed more. TheU.S. platoon had grand designs on turning their bevy of unseasonable bents into a surprising run. They played the first half against Wales just as they wanted, and everything was going to plan.
Also they got punched in the mouth. Now the only question that matters is this How do they respond?