BRAD FRIEDEL: USA's tie with Wales felt like a loss

BRAD FRIEDEL: USA’s tie with Wales felt like a loss and I don’t know why Gregg Berhalter left Gio Reyna out, but I’m not joining in with his critics just yet… there are reasons for hope against England – especially if Phil Foden is on the bench again!

  • After a strong start, USA were held by Wales to start the World Cup with a 1-1 tie
  • Coach Gregg Berhalter’s call to leave Gio Reyna out has come under scrutiny
  • Next up is England on Friday – they beat Iran 6-2 in their World Cup opener
  • Stream the World Cup now with FuboTV (free trial)
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

The Wales score will have felt like a loss to the United States team as they walked off the pitch in Qatar.

I was really impressed with the first half. We controlled the game. Josh Sargent went close, there was nearly an own goal and I was really happy for Timothy Weah to score. He’s a great kid, always smiling, always happy. He took his goal well.

The tide shifted in the second and the more clear cut chances came to Wales. But the US should have held on. It was a silly challenge from Walker Zimmerman on Gareth Bale, who had his back to goal and didn’t have the ball under control.

There was nothing Matt Turner could do to save Bale’s resulting penalty. If you have the ability to hit halfway up the goal or higher with that kind of pace then even if you leave early as a keeper, gravity’s going to take you down. 

It’s really difficult to save and I think Matt did everything correct on the penalty – the percentages are left footed takers are going go to the goalkeeper’s left. Sometimes you have to play the percentage game on penalties if the striker’s not going to give you any hints on his run-up. 

Gareth would have been tired, it was hot and humid and to hit it with that kind of force, well, that’s why he has scored so many big goals in big games. He, like the rest of the Wales team, weren’t at it in the first half but picked it up in the second.

Brad Friedel was impressed with parts of USA’s display in the 1-1 tie against Wales 

USA held a first half lead when Timothy Weah (center) scored with a smart finish

I also think the game showed how key Weston McKennie is and his importance is something I discussed in a previous column. He went off in the 66th minute and while Wales had improved by then, we looked a different team without him.

McKennie, alongside USA captain Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah, were excellent in the first half and I didn’t think Wales could deal with it. I understand Gregg taking him off, though. He hasn’t played 90 minutes in about five weeks due to the leg injury he had with Juventus.

If he’s not fully fit against England and we can’t have him for 90, we will have to defend a bit more, we will have to drop back a bit more and often when that happens, our level of play drops. 

But there lies a reason I think Berhalter might not have played Reyna against Wales, which surprised me and has been a big talking point.

McKennie was not the only USMNT player heading into this tournament off the back of a recent injury. Sergino Dest at right-back and Sargeant in attack also had some problems, plus Christian Pulisic hasn’t played a whole lot of minutes this season at Chelsea. There, already, are four players Berhalter could have been mindful of managing the workload of before the game even starts.

Weston McKennie played well but was unable to get 90 minutes due to a recent injury

Gregg Berhalter, the USA coach, has come under scrutiny for other tactical decisions

The most surprising was his call to leave Gio Reyna as an unused substitute against Wales

BRAD FRIEDEL STATS

– 82 USA caps, 21 shutouts and three World Cups – 1994, 1998 and 2002

– 450 Premier League games, for English giants such as Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa and 132 shutouts

– He holds a Premier League record for playing 310 games straight from 2004-05 until 2012

If Reyna started too, then that’s five. Yes, you have five substitutes but you have to use them to respond to the game in front of you on the pitch as well – you can’t already have them planned based on the condition of players.

And maybe Reyna did have a niggle. There were quiet suggestions he felt a bit of tightness after the scrimmage the USA played against a local Qatari team last Thursday. But one thing’s for sure – I’m not going to use ‘Gregg prefers MLS players’ line to criticize him like I’ve seen elsewhere.

Kellyn Acosta and Weah’s direct replacement, Jordan Morris, are good players. Acosta is good – circumstances and years on his contract have kept him out of Europe, not his ability. He also made an important challenge on Bale late on, when the Wales man could have chipped Turner as he was far out of his goal. 

We can still qualify, of course, but it is much more difficult now. It could come down to goal difference and who does better against iran. But then as Argentina have shown, anything can still happen.

On Friday, England will try and start quickly – it’s a team that always does, whether it is against Spain, USA or Iran. And with those attacking players, it is quite relentless. They try to do it for 90 minutes and that’s also the culture of the Premier League. 

What was really impressive with England against Iran is that unlike the USA, the substitutes that came on and the level rose. They had fresh legs, but were just as good as the players they were replacing. Ok, Callum Wilson, with respect, is a bit of a drop from Harry Kane and if the England captain misses Friday with his ankle injury then that is a big boost for the USA, but Wilson is still a very respectable player. 

Friedel believes England star Phil Foden being a substitute on Friday would help USMNT

England started the World Cup campaign with a commanding 6-2 win against Iran in Qatar

I was surprised Phil Foden was on the bench for England,  he is one of my favorite England players. I hope Gareth keeps him there on Friday! He’s a wonderful player and at Manchester City, the coaching of Pep Guardiola and the system Pep plays if perfect for him. 

Like I said in my last column, I’m not worried about our mindset. We will dig in, work hard, and I think the game is going to be hard for England. 

I’m more worried going into the Iran game now. Who knows what their result will be against Wales and how they are feeling with everything going on in that country. 

But this looks like it is a tournament for upsets. Saudi Arabia beat Argentina, Japan beat Germany and we are capable of causing a shock too. 

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