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Winners & Losers

No stopping big-game Bale! USMNT winners, losers & ratings as Wales answer Weah's World Cup goal

00:27 EAT 22/11/2022
Gareth Bale Matt Turner Wales USMNT World Cup 2022
The U.S. men's national team allowed a late equalizer to Gareth Bale in an action-packed 1-1 draw on Monday.

For much of Monday's World Cup opener, the USMNT's young stars shined bright as could be. If the players were nervous, they didn't show it. They played like a team determined, a team more than ready for an occasion that many thought would be overwhelmed.

It never did. The Stars and Stripes never were overmatched and certainly weren't outplayed, but they dropped points anyway. So it goes at a World Cup.

And so it goes when the other team has Gareth Bale, a man for the big occasion. There are no events bigger than a World Cup, so of course Bale would make his mark.

He erased Tim Weah's first-half opener and, more importantly, erased a USMNT performance that could be categorized as dominant.

Domination doesn't equal points, though, a lesson the young USMNT learned on Monday night.

  • Tim Weah USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    The Winners

    WINNER: Wales fans

    If this sport was based on passion alone, Wales would be lifting the World Cup.

    What a night this was for Welsh fans. Hours before kickoff, they were loud and proud, singing, dancing, celebrating. And why wouldn't they? They've waited 64 years for this moment.

    There were families in attendance, young and old scattered throughout the crowd celebrating the country's first World Cup in a generation.

    The singing? Spectacular. The national anthem? Spine-tingling. The pure emotion of it all? Unmatched.

    This is what the World Cup is about: a country full of people coming together to love something bigger than themselves.

    And when that Bale goal hit, what a sound. They deserved the celebration. They waited long enough for it.

    WINNER: Tim Weah

    Take away the goal for just a second, we'll get back to that.

    Let's start with Weah's overall play and how he fits with this USMNT. He knows his role so, so well and, against Wales, he executed it to perfection.

    With Christian Pulisic cutting in on the other side and Sergino Dest cutting in next to him, Weah's job is to offer that downfield option and keep the defense stretched. He did that, and then got a goal for good measure. His diagonal run was picture-perfect. His finish was, too. The knee side celebration could use some work but, hey, it was his first World Cup goal.

    It was also USMNT's first World Cup goal in eight years, and it sent the stadium into a frenzy. It was a deserved one from the attacker that deserved it most.

    Weah had been keeping Wales honest all half and, finally, the defense folded. You couldn't ask for much more from him.

    WINNER: Gareth Bale

    Just when you thought it wouldn't happen, it did, in fact happen. How could anyone doubt Gareth Bale?

    He'd been shackled all night, with the USMNT midfield strangling him for nearly the entire game. But then, the moment, the one he needed.

    Walker Zimmerman went right through him in the box and the whole world knew what would happen next. He absolutely smashed the ball into the back of the net for the World Cup goal his country waited so long for.

    He's not the old Bale by a long shot. He looked nothing like it tonight. But who cares? He's still big-game Bale, and he did it again.

  • Gareth Bale Walker Zimmerman USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    The Losers

    LOSER: Walker Zimmerman

    It was all going so well.

    The USMNT was seemingly on its way to victory. The team had a 1-0 lead and despite some Wales threats, the U.S. was doing just fine.

    And then Zimmerman went straight through Bale and everything changed.

    He had done little wrong prior, but that won't be what matters. What matters is one moment, and it ultimately decided the game.

    One penalty, one goal and two points dropped. It'll be a tough one to take for Zimmerman and the USMNT.

    LOSER: USMNT's hopes of advancing

    It was right there for the Stars and Stripes. They seemingly had it and were well on their way to a result that would have made this all seem easier.

    Now, though, the U.S. will need to grind their way out of the group.

    A win would have made the road much, much easier. With England looming, the U.S. would know that a result in the final game against Iran would almost certainly be enough. Now, a result in that final game may be a necessity.

    It'll all be tough to stomach for the U.S. as the road has just become a bit harder. Any points against England would be a major benefit, but you can't expect that. And that means it may all come down to Iran and, ultimately, goal differential.

    Buckle up, USMNT fans. This one was a stomach-turner, but it's only the start.

    LOSER: Yellow cards

    For a bit, it looked like the Oprah meme.

    "You get a yellow! You get a yellow! You get a yellow!"

    The cautions came thick and fast for the USMNT, which now see a few key players walking the line heading into the second game. Suspensions are suddenly a real risk at several spots after a quick flurry of yellows.

    Sergino Dest was the first to get booked for a slightly soft foul on Neco Williams in the 11th minute. And then the Wales fullback drew a card for Weston McKennie just two minutes later. Ream was handed one too early in the second half, putting a slight damper on an otherwise spectacular performance.

    Wales wasn't exempt either, with Bale and Chris Mepham drawing cards.

    Several of those cards were deserved, several weren't. The referee had a tough game overall, with several calls igniting the crowd's ire. But both teams now will see key players in a tough spot heading into their second game.

  • Tim Ream USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    USMNT ratings: Defense

    Matt Turner (6/10):

    Had little to do aside from one nice save. Nothing he could do on the Bale penalty.

    Antonee Robinson (6/10):

    Got forward well and created. Solid performance.

    Tim Ream (8/10):

    An absolute rock at the back. Was close to perfect aside from the yellow.

    Walker Zimmerman (5/10):

    The penalty ruined the day, even if he had been playing well before it.

    Sergino Dest (6/10):

    Was his typical self, cutting in and keeping the defense honest. Largely mistake-free.

  • Weston McKennie USMNT Wales 2022

    Midfield

    Tyler Adams (6/10):

    Broke up play well enough but, like the rest of the midfield, was a bit quieter in the second half as Wales pushed forward.

    Weston McKennie (6/10):

    Plenty of bite, but little substance. Didn't quite have that game-changing impact we all know he has.

    Yunus Musah (7/10):

    Showed why he can be essentially unstoppable. Was so good on the turn and put Wales in some really bad positions.

  • Christian Pulisic USMNT Wales react World Cup 2022

    Attack

    Christian Pulisic (7/10):

    Fantastic assist. Kept it simple, and was better for it.

    Josh Sargent (6/10):

    Missed a golden chance early, but did hold up play to set up Weah's goal.

    Tim Weah (8/10):

    Was a danger throughout the first half, pushing Wales back before eventually getting his goal.

  • Gregg Berhalter USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Brenden Aaronson (6/10):

    Came on for McKennie. Had energy, but little impact.

    Haji Wright (6/10):

    Brought in to hold up play a bit, but the game plan changed when Wales scored soon after.

    Kellyn Acosta (7/10:

    The best foul in USMNT history. Dragged down Bale to essentially save the game with Turner way out of his goal in stoppage time.

    DeAndre Yeldin (6/10):

    With Dest on a yellow, the move only made sense.

    Jordan Morris (N/A):

    Berhalter wanted speed and physicality, but didn't get much given lack of time.

    Gregg Berhalter (7/10):

    In terms of tactics, spot on. In terms of starting XI, spot on. Could have made subs earlier, but team was one bad foul away from a convincing win.