The enduring picture of the nationwide workforce’s failure to qualify for the final World Cup was of Christian Pulisic, his uniform stained with grass and grime, squatting in the midst of the sector along with his head in his hand in frustration. Because of this, getting the U.S. to Qatar this fall most likely meant extra to Pulisic than every other participant.
“He’s one of the people that really felt the heartbreak back in 2017,” goalkeeper Matt Turner mentioned.
In a World Cup debut Monday that was delayed 4 years, Pulisic put in a heroic effort solely to be annoyed but once more when a late penalty-kick objective allowed Wales to steal two factors with a 1-1 draw.
“A little disappointed with how the game played out,” mentioned defender Walker Zimmerman, whose foul within the field led to Gareth Bale‘s goal in the 82nd minute. “Being in a position with less than 15 minutes left to walk away with three points, it feels like we could have deserved a little bit more.”
And no one deserved a better result more than Pulisic, whose perfectly weighted pass freed Tim Weah for the lone U.S. goal in the 36th minute.
Playing against a Welsh team that was more physical than finesse, Pulisic was pummeled, punished and pounded. But he would not be put down.
He was bumped, bruised and battered. But he would not be beaten.
Tied, yes, but not beaten. That still leaves the U.S. with considerable control of its fate with group-play games against England and Iran ahead.
“I don’t know. I need to win,” Pulisic mentioned when requested what drove him to preserving lifting himself off the well-manicured turf at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, solely to get knocked down once more. “I’m very competitive. I love this team so much. I’m honored to play in a World Cup for my country.
“So the least I can do is give it everything I have.”
Pulisic might need been the one fixed for the U.S. in what proved to be a sport of two halves.
The Individuals got here out aggressively, swarming to the ball in a primary half throughout which they held the ball for 30 of the 45 minutes, outpassed Wales practically two to at least one, and took the one shot on objective, which Weah put at the back of the online. It was Pulisic who made the objective occur, taking a chested ball off a move from Josh Sargent close to midfield and making an extended broken-field run earlier than pushing a move ahead for Weah, who break up two defenders on the high of the field then flicked the ball by sliding Welsh keeper Wayne Hennessey.
“Playing with Christian is amazing,” Weah mentioned. “Over the years we’ve gained a connection. Once he gets the ball, I just have to run it behind them.
“He fights for the team. You can’t ask for anything [more]. Definitely a leader.”
The rating gave Weah yet another World Cup objective than his father George, who earlier than changing into president of Liberia was a three-time African participant of the yr and a former world participant of the yr. But regardless of his achievements, he by no means performed in a World Cup.
The U.S. might get no extra regardless of its early domination. Some opening-night jitters and fatigue among the many younger Individuals mixed with a few halftime changes by Wales allowed the Welsh to dominate the second half. Bale ultimately pulled his workforce even when his left-footed blast from the penalty spot acquired by Turner, who guessed accurately by diving to his proper, however couldn’t get sufficient of his gloved arms on the shot to cease it.
Turner was practically burned by Bale once more deep in stoppage time. After the keeper sprinted properly off his line to interrupt up a counterattack, Bale ran to the free ball simply contained in the U.S. half and started lining up a shot on the distant however open web earlier than Kellyn Acosta grabbed his LAFC teammate across the shoulders to forestall the shot.
“A professional foul,” Zimmerman mentioned of Acosta’s fast considering, which earned him a yellow card.
“We talked about it before the game — every play matters,” mentioned U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, the one American to play and handle the U.S. in a World Cup. “Every single play can have an outcome on the game.”
What issues now could be how the U.S. responds to a draw that felt just a little like a loss.
“It’s disappointing for sure after such a good start,” Pulisic mentioned. “A point in the first game, it’s better than none. We have move on, learn from this. It’s our first World Cup game. Now it’s just time to focus on the next one.”
Added Turner of the problem forward: “If it was easy, everyone would do it. For us, it’s focusing on the fact that it was a good start. You take a point and you keep moving forward.”