Gareth Bale has put a sensitive damper on the big US dreams. The American by choice scored a penalty kick (82nd) in the Welsh World Cup comeback after 64 years to make it 1-1 (0-1) against the Americans.
The draw is already dampening the growing enthusiasm for soccer in the States, although coach Gregg Berhalter’s young team had started well.
Timothy Weah (36th) put the USA in the lead and put a big name on the scoreboard: the goal scorer’s father is the former football icon George Weah, President of Liberia since 2018. But Bale hit back with his 41st goal for Wales.
Bale has made only two starts for his new team, Los Angeles FC, since July in Major League Soccer (MLS), failing to complete 90 minutes for the champions.
Joe Biden on the phone with the US team
The USA, hosts of the next World Cup, and Wales are now tied in Group B behind England, who had thrashed Iran in the opener (6-2). Wales were already considered to be tough competitors for second place in this group – the Brits only proved that in the second half of the game.
In the days before, the Americans had carefully built up the suspense, self-confidence seemed high – but so was the drop. They want to “change the world’s view of American football,” Pulisic said, while Berhalter emphasized “that on our best day we can beat any team in the world.”
And just before the big game, Joe Biden spoke to the team. “I know you have some of the best players in the world in your ranks,” said the US President on the phone, “go out and shock them all.”
Lonely first half for Gareth Bale
In front of 43,418 spectators, the team really started like a favorite with such enthusiasm, pressed Wales deep into their own half and had a double chance to take the lead early on. First, Welshman Joe Rodon tested his own goalkeeper, a few seconds later a header from ex-Bremen Josh Sargent smacked the outside of the post.
In general, the Americans brought a lot of Bundesliga experience to the pitch. In addition to Pulisic and Sargent, former German pros Weston McKennie (Schalke) and Tyler Adams (Leipzig) were also in the starting XI. Berhalter’s team kept control of the game and after a good half hour Weah broke through, Pulisic having used him heavily.
Wales, on the other hand, made far too many technical errors, the few counterattacks were nipped in the bud and Bale endured a lonely first half in the Brits’ attack.
The superstar hardly saw a ball and was noticed for the first time after 39 minutes – Bale saw yellow for a hard effort. In the closing stages, he won the penalty and successfully took responsibility.