It’s been eight and a half long years since the USMNT last played a World Cup game.
Back when the 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil ended in the Round of 16 at the hands of a golden Belgian generation, nobody in the US could have imagined such a sustained absence from the game’s biggest stage.
But then the disaster in Couva happened in 2017 and, as a result, the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 edition of the tournament in Russia, the first time they had failed to qualify for a World Cup since the 1986 tournament in Mexico.
The road back to the World Cup wasn’t necessarily an easy one. The US finished third in the Octagonal, and only automatically qualified ahead of Costa Rica because of a better goal difference. But they found a way to get back. And their first World Cup game in 2022 will be against a team that has had a much longer World Cup absence, Wales.
USA-Wales preview: Details
The World Cup roster named by Gregg Berhalter was surprising in who was excluded. Berhalter’s decision to not bring goalkeeper Zack Steffen was a surprise. Steffen has been a mainstay for the US since 2018, and a player that Berhalter had coached at the club level for years with the Columbus Crew.
But even without those two, it’s a roster that figures to be one of the youngest at the World Cup with only three players over the age of 30: goalkeeper Sean Johnson as well as defenders Tim Ream and the much-maligned Aaron Long.
Most of the biggest names to have emerged post-Couva have been included, headlined by Christian Pulisic, who is the most capped player on the roster (52 career appearances for the US) despite being just 24 years old. In goal, Matt Turner figures to get the start ahead of Ethan Horvat. While in defense, it’s anybody’s guess with Sergiño Dest’s fitness in question, though Walker Zimmerman figures to be a lock.
The midfield is stacked with regulars such as Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Kellyn Acosta though Cristian Roldan was a surprise inclusion.
Forward is perhaps where the US is most intriguing with the aforementioned Pulisic leading the charge, supplemented by Gio Reyna (whose father Claudio played at three different World Cups for the US), Josh Sargent, another surprise inclusion in Jordan Morris, and Tim Weah (whose father is former Liberian international and current Liberian President, George Weah).
The run of form for the US has not been very good of late unfortunately. They are winless in three straight and four of their last five. Perhaps even more worrying is they have struggled to score goals, having scored more than a single goal just twice in their last seven games while being held scoreless four times in that same span.
A closer look at Wales
Wales’ road back to the World Cup was a much longer one that the road the US had to take. This edition of the World Cup is the first one that Wales has qualified for since their only other appearance at 1958 in Sweden where they reached the quarter-finals.
So while it’s been quite some time since they’ve been to the World Cup, they have qualified for the last two editions of the European Championships: a fabulous run to the semi-finals in 2016 and then a respectable appearance in the Round of 16 in the 2020 tournament (played in 2021 due to COVID).
They made it to Qatar the hard way as they finished second in their qualifying group behind Belgium and had to win two play-off games, the first against Austria and the second against Ukraine, to secure their spot at this World Cup.
While the US squad is one of the youngest, Wales seems to have one of the most experienced as a number of players have a lot of appearances for The Dragons. Chief among them is their star and talisman Gareth Bale (who now plays in MLS with LAFC) racking up 40 goals in 108 caps. Goalkeeper Wayne Hennesseey also has triple digit caps with 106 as does defender Chris Gunter with 109. Their midfield is also very experience with Aaron Ramsey earning 75 caps for the Welsh and Joe Allen earning 72. However, Allen will miss the match due to a nagging injury.
Their form of late has not been good, however. In fact, they have won just once in their last eight games (the 1-0 victory of Ukraine that booked their spot) and are currently riding a three game losing streak with losses to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland.
- Of the combined 52 players for each team, only US defender DeAndre Yedlin has any previous World Cup experience
- Wales reached the knockout stage in their only World Cup appearance (1958) while the US has reached the knockout stage in three of their last four World Cup appearances (2002, 2010, 2014)
When and where to watch the game
Thursday, November 12, 2020
USA 0-0 Wales
Current FIFA ranking
Next USA game
Photo credit: IMAGO / PA Images
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