The way the United States drew against Wales on Monday to kick off World Cup play is disappointing. It was not only about how well the Americans played in the first half, but also about what could have happened if one particular player had entered the match. Walker Zimmerman missed an uncharacteristic penalty in the 82nd minute. Gareth Bale scored a goal to seal the 1–1 draw, one of the biggest takeaways of the match was the omission of Gio Reina, who was not called up by USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter in the second half as a substitute.
With a chance to win, Berhalter chose not to include the talented teenager from Borussia Dortmund when the United States pressed for a good goal to give them three valuable points. A win could help them take a big step towards reaching the round of 16, especially with England taking the lead next Friday.
Substitutions for the match were Kellyn Acosta, DeAndre Yedlin, Hadji Wright, Jordan Morris and Brenden Aaronson. While the departures of Weston McKenny, Sergino Desta, Yunus Musakh and Josh Sargent made sense since they faded as the game went on, shutting down scorer Tim Weah in place of Morris didn’t seem to add up.
Christian Pulisic might have been one of the most important players in the United States, but he was the perfect replacement. Wales knocked him down at every opportunity and by the end of the match he felt some pain. He was visibly limping and wincing every time he got up. If Reina replaced Pulisic against a team that leaves a place in the center, this could change the situation.
After the match, when asked about Reine, Berhalter said the team tested him for muscle soreness, but given the phase of the match, they chose Morris instead. Berhalter also said: “Gio will be available for England.”
Reina himself intervened after the match, telling Yahoo Sports felt like he felt 100% entering the day. He acknowledged that there had been some tension in the past few days before that: “I mean, you never know, you can’t tell if you’re going to or not. But I was definitely happy to play… It’s not my thing. solution.”
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Berhalter has reason to be wary of Reina due to his muscle injury issues and it’s better to have Reina healthy for two full games than 11 minutes of the first leg, but it’s a substitution that makes one wonder what could have been. . One substitution will not always be the deciding factor in winning or losing a match. Berhalter must find a way to get his best players onto the pitch, especially when they’re at their limits and need a change.
Pulisic could have used defense to end the match, so even if the manager was set on Morris, adding him on the left flank could make a difference more than on the right. Reina, even if he is not 100% fit for the match, should have made a few crosses into the box instead of Wright. He is more efficient than Morris, who likes to run on goal more.
It’s a fine balance, but at this stage, when the light shines brightest, small adjustments mean more. Berhalter took his place in the starting lineup as the United States were all on the side of the Dragons to start the match, but the changes in the second half didn’t come fast enough and they weren’t right. 45 good minutes of football will at best ensure a draw, and Berhalter will need to push the team and fiddle to get the full 90 minutes out of them. The reward for this would be quite sweet as they aim for their first World Cup win since June 2014, but need to be more assertive in changing it.
The United States will then play England on Friday at 2:00 pm ET.
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