The United States’ 1-1 draw with Wales is no longer acceptable to American fans

Tim Weah celebrates his goal for Team USA in the 1-1 tie against Wales in both teams' World Cup opener in Qatar.

Tim Weah celebrates his goal for Team USA in the 1-1 tie against Wales in both teams’ World Cup opener in Qatar.

AP

No, Qatar should not host the World Cup. No, it’s not true that fans can’t drink beer and players can’t wear rainbow headbands at the World Cup.

But the World Cup is still the greatest sporting event. without line. And that’s coming from someone who’s covered sports for 35 years, including Super Bowls, Final Fours, Wimbledons, NBA Finals, and 14 Olympics.

All of these things are fun in their own way, but there is nothing quite like the World Cup.

Nothing means more to most sports fans on the planet than watching their National Football Teams take center stage, live and die with their heroes on every dribble, every pass, every foul, every foul and every save of the dramatic quadrennial tournament.

This is why an estimated five billion people – more than half of the world’s population – will take part in some part of the World Cup in Qatar, which kicked off on Sunday and runs until December 18. This is why businesses, schools, government offices and banks are closed in many countries when the World Cup team is playing.

For a long time, Americans didn’t understand it. The World Cup was a foreign party that they weren’t usually invited to and they didn’t understand it. Those days are over.

The Empire State Building was lit up Sunday night to celebrate the start of the World Cup. So were the Seattle Space Needle, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and many other famous buildings around the country. Here in South Florida, which will host the World Cup matches in 2026, Hard Rock Stadium, Port Miami, and the Miami-Dade Courthouse lit up the night sky for the occasion.

Fans were up and in full World Cup mode by 8am ET on Monday (5am PT) to hear England’s 6-2 victory over Iran. Crowds of fans gathered in British pubs across America and partied as The Three Lions proved to be one of the cup favorites.

Later in the afternoon, many Americans (some of whom I know who will remain nameless) pretended to be working, or were half engrossed in work, while watching the USA v Wales game on another screen with the volume down. Others played hockey altogether and attended watch parties, wearing Team USA scarves. The Americans are now betting on the games and filling the World Cup brackets. They plan viewing parties. They fill out Panini sticker books.

This collective roar at 2:38 p.m. was US fans from sea to sea shining celebrating Tim Weah’s goal from a great through ball from Christian Pulisic. It gave the Americans a 1-0 lead over Wales as they held on for a charged 46 minutes.

Then came the collective groan at around 4pm, which was heartening across the United States and thousands of glistening fans at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Doha reluctantly accepted a 1-1 draw after Welsh star Gareth Bale slotted home an equalizing penalty. After he was taken down in the penalty area by American defender Walker Zimmerman. Bale was already a national hero in Wales, a country of 3 million that hasn’t participated in a World Cup since 1958, and he’s an even bigger hero today.

Once upon a time, American fans were delighted with a draw. They would say “Nice try boys! Go to USA!” Not anymore. Americans now understand how unpleasant it must be to accept one point in a World Cup game when the three points for victory seemed so close. After Monday’s tie, Twitter exploded with angry posts by US fans complaining that coach Greg Berhalter brought in Jordan Morris as a late-game substitute in place of Gio Reina.

“Bringing Jordan Morris on Gio Reyna is legit a fireable offense,” one tweet read. “Jordan Morris on Gio Reina must be some kind of crime,” another wrote.

There’s a lot of football on American TV these days, and fans have developed strong opinions, just as they do with the NFL, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball.

It’s not just American fans who are getting more sophisticated and smarter with football. They all grew up with the US National Team, which used to be mostly a bunch of struggling college kids trying to keep up with the high-paying professionals. Many of them now play for Big Boys in Europe, and the rest play in a well-established football league.

Ten of the 11 starters on Team USA on Monday were from Europe, the most in US World Cup history. The clubs they play for: Arsenal, Milan, Fulham, Leeds, Juventus, Valencia, Chelsea, Norwich City and Lille.

The US national team roster is the second youngest of the 32 teams in this cup. Only Ghana has a younger team. Only one player on the 26-man roster – Inter Miami’s DeAndre Yedlin – has World Cup experience. But these American players have been on the big stages before and have faced some of the world’s elite players. They are ready to compete.

They showed it in the first 45 minutes. The USA team dominated 66 percent to 34 percent, and most importantly, looked composed, technically sound, and mature, which upsets the team’s youth. They completed 90% of their passes (314 of 350) and looked like the better team.

But Wales stepped it up in the second half, playing in a more direct style, and Zimmermann’s unwise mistake in the penalty area gave Bales the chance to tie it up, which he did as well as his hair.

So Team USA heads into Friday’s game against England with one point instead of three, and tied for second in Group B instead of tied for top. Still alive, but with an even bigger mountain to climb to reach the knockout stage. It is a foregone conclusion that England will advance. Chances are that Iran will not. So, it will probably drop to the US and Wales in second place.

Fasten seat belts. This party is just getting started!

This story was originally published Nov. 21, 2022, 7:27 p.m.

Related stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kauffman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, the US Open, the NCAA Basketball Championships, NBA Playoffs, and Super Bowls and has been the football writer and basketball writer at the University of Miami for 25 years. She was born in Frederick, Maryland, and raised in Miami.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: