USMNT player ratings would seem to indicate a victory for the Yanks in their 2022 World Cup opener against Wales on Monday, but the result doesn’t always match the performance.
Gregg Berhalter’s game plan, which we’ll dive into much deeper in the ensuing USMNT player ratings, worked like a charm for much of the night in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
USMNT player ratings vs Wales
GK – Matt Turner: 6 – Wales managed just three shots on target (just one before the 80th minute), making Turner’s World Cup debut mostly uneventful. He got a fingertip (or two) to Gareth Bale’s penalty kick, but the power and accuracy won out in the end.
RB – Sergiño Dest: 6 – Given that he carried an injury in the World Cup opener, Dest wasn’t a certainty to start against Wales, but this was the game the USMNT would need him the most during the group stage. Against a three-/five-man backline, it’s imperative to keep as much width as possible, so as to pull the extra defender out of shape and create space to play and receive a pass. Dest appeared limited to some degree, but even just the threat of him running past a defender or serving up a tasty cross was enough to keep Wales honest.
CB – Walker Zimmerman: 5 – With Tim Ream taking on the bulk of the on-ball work, Zimmerman was largely left to get tight to Welsh attackers, use his size and strength in one-on-one battles and battle with Kieffer Moore on land and in the air for much of the second half. That’s exactly what you want him doing. What happened in the final 10 minutes, giving away the penalty kick, is another story.
CB – Tim Ream: 7.5 – It’s mildly disconcerting to think that Ream almost wasn’t a part of this team. If not for injuries to Chris Richards and Miles Robinson, Ream’s chances would have been next to zero despite his fantastic start to the Premier League season with Fulham. After Monday’s opener, it’s impossible to see this USMNT surviving and functioning without him. Ream’s ability to carry and pass the ball under pressure and into heavy traffic made everything else that Berhalter scripted in the game plan. He found the midfield when the ball needed to go central; he found a winger when it needed to go long and diagonal. No one else in the USMNT player pool could do what Ream did on Monday, and without what he did they would have been in a world of hurt after just one game.
LB – Antonee Robinson: 7 – What a luxury it is to have a left back so confident and composed both going forward and defensively. Robinson and Christian Pulisic are starting to build a nice rapport, two Premier League stars combining nicely on the left wing.
DM – Tyler Adams: 7 – For as long as he’s been on the USMNT, the knock on Adams has always been that he is merely an average passer for the position he plays. Everything else that he does more than makes up for any shortcomings on the ball, but Leeds’ 23-year-old midfield engine was a long-range marksman on Monday, picking out more of the same diagonal balls and quickly switching the angle of attack. Wales’ two-man midfield of Ethan Ampadu and Aaron Ramsey simply couldn’t conjure any pressure on the ball given their numerical disadvantage.
CM – Yunus Musah: 6 – First things first, this wasn’t a game for the midfield to dominate or lead the way for the USMNT. The key to beating Wales was to create chances during brief moments of quick transition. Each of the three group-stage opponents will present their own unique challenges, and Musah will be asked to do much more against a superior opponent like England.
CM – Weston McKennie: 6 – The same goes for McKennie, largely. It is worth noting that, after being listed as a midfielder on the roster, Brenden Aaronson was indeed used as a central midfielder on Monday. He replaced McKennie in the 66th minute, and it could prove to be something of a masterstroke from Berhalter later in the tournament. With so many wide attacking options, taking Aaronson, who’s the most versatile of the bunch, and dropping him back a line won’t see the USMNT lose any effort or energy defensively, but it will undoubtedly bear fruit in the form of a late-arriving run in the dying minutes of a must-win game, perhaps?
RW – Tim Weah: 8 – When he’s healthy and fit, Weah is perhaps the most unique attacking weapon in the USMNT player pool. No one else possesses the 22-year-old’s deadly combination of pace and finishing. Once again, Wales was the perfect matchup to exploit those particular tools, once the likes of Dest, Robinson and/or Josh Sargent finally managed to pull a defender out into no man’s land. It was Sargent who did so in the lead-up to Weah’s goal, leaving just one defender (already trailing on the wrong side) and the goalkeeper to beat. No problem.
CF – Josh Sargent: 6.5 – Sargent had just 17 touches in his 74 minutes of action, but he wasn’t picked for what he would do on the ball. Defensively, Berhalter needed someone to set the press. In possession, he needed someone to make sacrificial runs to create space for others. He did all of the above exactly as asked.
LW – Christian Pulisic: 7 – Pulisic got the assist on Weah’s goal, driving forward through the heart of midfield and slipping a perfectly time pass into space with pressure all around. He was exactly who the USMNT needs him to be 100 percent of the time. His 67 touches were uncharacteristically high for the USMNT, which is a great sign of a smart game plan built around the best players.