The USMNT picked up a somewhat disappointing group-stage 1-1 draw against Wales in its first taste of FIFA World Cup action since 2014. The youthful squad, which is the youngest collective in the entire World Cup field, came out the gate hungry and built themselves a 1-0 first-half lead courtesy of a goal from 22-year-old Timothy Weah.
The strong performance in the first half was overshadowed by the second-half letdown which saw Wales tie things up courtesy of a Gareth Bale penalty. The change in energy from the USMNT was noticeable, and they let Wales claw back into a game they really should have had no business being close in.
With all that in mind, here are out three biggest USMNT overreactions after the first game of the FIFA World Cup.
1. US shows potential, but there's much work to be done
The USMNT's first half looked like a team overflowing with potential and energy, ready to shock some of the more experienced World Cup squads. The 1-0 lead was well-deserved, and there wasn't any doubts about who was in control during the opening 45 minutes.
The inexperience of the USMNT, both in terms of age and experience at major international tournaments, was on display in the second half, however. Walker Zimmerman's costly mistake resulted in Wales getting a gift-wrapped scoring opportunity from the spot, and the lack of urgency from the Americans gave the Welsh squad enough life to claw back later on in the game. These are mistakes an experienced team would not be making, and if the USMNT wants to get out of their group and make a deep run, they'll need to clean things up in the second half against England and Iran.
2. Parking the bus was a mistake
Gregg Berhalter has often deployed a defensive mindset, especially when the USMNT jumps out to an early lead. It was an exhilarating first half in which the USMNT looked to be full throttle for the better part of 45 minutes, but things changed at halftime. The USMNT looked less eager to press the attack and find an opening in the Welsh defense, instead seeming content with trying to control possession and keep things in front of them.
The result saw Wales gain confidence throughout the second half and begin formulating dangerous attacks of their own, ultimately culminating in the penalty shot for Gareth Bale, which he tucked away powerfully. Berhalter's decision to abandon the attacking gameplan that was so clearly working wonders for the USMNT in the first half and to employ a defensive mindset proved a costly mistake.
3. Walker Zimmerman should be benched, Gio Reyna needed to play
Walker Zimmerman should still get the chance to prove himself at the World Cup, but after a costly mistake against Wales, resulting in Gareth Bale's penalty goal, it would make sense to bring in a new face for the matchup against England on Friday. Zimmerman was meant to be one of the experienced leaders of this young USMNT squad, but instead, he was the one on the delivering end of a costly mistake.
With the likes of Aaron Long and Cameron Carter-Vickers waiting on the bench, it would make a ton of sense to roll with another option on Friday. England will be far more punishing of mistakes made by the defense, so Carter-Vickers, who spent time with Tottenham, could be a suitable option to pair with Tim Ream as the central defensive duo.
Additionally, getting some added energy and creativity into the midfield by putting Gio Reyna into the starting lineup is a move Berhalter must consider. While the USMNT had some decent looks at goal, their end product was lackluster outside of Weah's finish. Hopefully, a healthy Reyna will be ready to suit up against England and Berhalter will include him in his plans.