BRAD FRIEDEL: USA’s draw against Wales felt like a loss, but there is reason for hope against England

BRAD FRIEDEL: USA’s draw against Wales felt like a loss, but there is reason for hope against England

The Wales score will have felt like a loss for the USA 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, it was almost an own goal and I was very happy that Timothy Weah scored. He is a great boy, always smiling, always happy. He took the aim 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 stupid challenge from Walker Zimmerman on Gareth Bale, who had his back to goal and was not in control of the ball.

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 at that pace, gravity will take you down, even if you go early as a keeper.

It’s very difficult to save and I think Matt did everything right on the penalty – the percentages are left-footed takers are going to go to the left of the keeper. Sometimes you have to play the percentage game on penalties if the striker is not going to give you any hints about the drive.

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

Brad Friedel was impressed with parts of the USA's performance in the 1-1 draw against Wales

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

The USA held the lead in the first half when Timothy Weah (centre) scored with a smart finish

The USA held the lead in the first half when Timothy Weah (centre) scored with a smart finish

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

McKennie, along with USA captain Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah, were excellent in the first half and I didn’t think Wales could handle it. I understand Gregg is taking him off. He has not played 90 minutes for 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 to 90, we have to defend a bit more, we have to drop a bit more and often when that happens, our level of play drops.

But there’s a reason I think Berhalter might not play Reyna against Wales, which surprised me and has been a big talking point.

McKennie wasn’t the only USMNT player heading into this tournament coming off a recent injury. Sergino Dest at right-back and Sargeant in attack also had some problems, plus Christian Pulisic hasn’t played many minutes this season at Chelsea. That’s already four players Berhalter could have been mindful of handling the workload for before the game even started.

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

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

Gregg Berhalter, the USA coach, has been scrutinized for other tactical decisions

Gregg Berhalter, the USA coach, has been scrutinized for other tactical decisions

Most surprising was his call to leave Gio Reyna on as an unused substitute against Wales

Most surprising was his call to leave Gio Reyna on as an unused substitute against Wales

BRAD FRIEDEL STATISTICS

– 82 USA caps, 21 shutouts and three world championships – 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 to 2012

If Reyna started as well, 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 players’ condition.

And maybe Reyna had a niggle. There were quiet suggestions that he was feeling some tightness after the action USA played against a local Qatari team last Thursday. But one thing’s for sure – I’m not going to use the “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 a vital challenge on Bale late on, when the Wales man could have chipped Turner when he was well off target.

Of course we can still qualify, but it is much more difficult now. It could come down to goal difference and who does better against Iran. But as Argentina has shown, anything can still happen.

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

What was really impressive about England against Iran is that, unlike the USA, the substitutes who came on and rose to the level. They had fresh legs but were as good as the players they replaced. Okay, Callum Wilson, with respect, is a bit of a fall from Harry Kane, and if the England captain misses Friday with the ankle injury, it’s a huge boost for the US, but Wilson is still a very respectable player.

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

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

England started their World Cup campaign with an impressive 6-2 win against Iran in Qatar

England started their World Cup campaign with an impressive 6-2 win against Iran in Qatar

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

As I said in my last column, I’m not worried about our thinking. We will dig in, work hard and I think it will be a difficult game for England.

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

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

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