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That was painful.

The USMNT drew Wales in their World Cup opener, but it felt more like a loss.

After playing arguably the best half of soccer the US have played in a World Cup, Wales retaliated in the second half and a penalty ultimately led to two dropped points for the States.

The Good

Fearlessness

With how the match ended against Wales it’s natural to immediately point out the negatives from the match despite there being positives to take from it.

The first one that stood out was the fearlessness that the young USMNT players came out with. Let’s not forget that this is the first-ever World Cup for 25 of the 26 players on this roster. It’s also the second-youngest unit in the entire tournament.

You’d expect nerves and a bit of shakiness from such a young core in those opening moments but the biggest stage in the world didn’t fluster them. They came out and dominated a Wales side that even the best of teams have struggled against.

Wide Overloads

In the first half, the US terrorized Wales down the flanks. They would work the ball around the back until an opportunity to overload the wide areas arose and then were quick to exploit it.

There was a fluidity in how the players positioned themselves and combined with each other that I’ve never seen another U.S. side play with. It was truly special to witness and head coach Gregg Berhalter deserves credit for how he set up his team to start.

Man of the Match

The best performances of the night came from Tyler Adams and Tim Ream. It was tough to decide between the two, but I went with Adams because he was simply everywhere.

He snuffed out danger before it happened, seemed to reach every second ball, and allowed the team to work those wide channels without fear of being exploited down the middle. Adams truly commanded the middle of the park and once again was at the core of everything the US did.

The Bad

Sealing the Game

After pressuring Wales for 35 minutes straight, the US took their foot off the gas after Timothy Weah slotted home a beautifully worked goal. Rather than using the goal as momentum to push for another, it seemed that the team was content with a one-goal lead and got complacent.

That complacency carried into the second half allowing Wales to gain confidence and put the US under pressure. Even with Wales’s strong start to the second half, the US had several opportunities to seal the game in transition. Wales was vulnerable but because of poor decision-making or tired legs, the team couldn’t make the most of these openings.

Which leads me to my next point...

Late Changes

Wales was always going to respond after the abysmal first half they had. They brought in six foot five striker Kiffer Moore to serve as a focal point to target to bypass the US’s high press and it worked really well – too well.

The best way to stop service to a target man is by stifling the source by closing down the direct passing lanes. However, it was clear around the 50th minute that the US players were suffering from fatigue and just didn’t have the legs to close down those areas.

Berhalter waited until the 66th minute to make the changes but by then Wales had already taken hold of the game. Even after the substitutes, there was no clear shift in the tactics to deal with the halftime adjustments of Wales. Even though Walker Zimmerman will take deserved heat for the loss, the US put themselves into a bad position that was avoidable.

Looking Ahead

In the grand scheme of things, a draw against a team that is only three rankings below you with a team consisting of young players in their first World Cup is a good result; not great, but good. It felt so much worse because of how good the US played but that’s a positive to take in itself.

Some extra encouragement is that the US has advanced to the group stage in every World Cup they’ve not lost their opening match. Nevertheless, the next opponent is no joke. England thrashed Iran 6-2 and despite the memes surrounding them they still have one of the strongest squads in the competition.

The U.S. has never lost to England in a World Cup in the two times the sides have faced off. Can U.S.’s golden generation shock the world and keep the streak alive?