EletiofeTim Weah was supposed to be off the field....

Tim Weah was supposed to be off the field. Instead, he won the USMNT a World Cup qualifier

-

- Advertisment -

Tim Weah was supposed to spend most of his Wednesday evening in Columbus sitting on a bench.

He wasn’t supposed to start the U.S. men’s national team’s pivotal World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Until “literally five minutes” before it, he didn’t know he would. When he did, as an injury replacement, he was supposed to exit after an hour of taxing labor. Reinforcements had been prepared. Weah saw them. And according to keen observers on site, he looked “cooked.”

But then, with the USMNT struggling to break a 1-1 tie, and with opportunity waning, Weah burst into the penalty box. He barely even glanced at goal. And he fired the U.S. to the top of North and Central America’s qualifying table with a textbook finish.

Technically, it will go down as an own goal. And on paper, Weah’s whirlwind of a Wednesday night will look relatively mundane. He played 72 minutes. He didn’t score. He exited to polite applause, one of many contributors to a crucial 2-1 U.S. win. Sergiño Dest was the original star. Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah were vital. Weah’s performance was strong but unspectacular.

Under these circumstances, though, it was remarkable.

Tim Weah’s whirlwind night

Weah didn’t even know when he’d get on the field until he and his teammates returned to the locker room after warmups. Paul Arriola, penciled in as the right winger, had pulled up with a groin injury. Head coach Gregg Berhalter thrust Weah into the starting 11. Weah hurriedly readied himself. “Everything was kind of a rush,” he said.

Mentally, he felt prepared. The day before, he’d met with Berhalter for a one-on-one film session.

But he was, perhaps, unprepared for a 90-minute battle. Early in the second half, he seemed to slow. He looked toward the sideline. He saw backup winger Matthew Hoppe reviewing tactics with an assistant coach. “I kinda had the idea that I was gonna get subbed out,” Weah admitted.

And if his night had ended there, around the 65th minute, it would have mirrored his young career, full of promise, but also twists and turns, injuries, roadblocks. As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, he hadn’t yet scored a meaningful USMNT goal.

But then, in the 66th minute, he pounced on Dest’s clever pass. He kept his head down, his eyes drilling into the ball, the back of the net in his peripheral vision. He found it, via a post and a goalkeeper’s back, and completed the USMNT’s second crucial comeback in as many months.

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13: Tim Weah #20 of United States celebrates with his teammate Sergiño Dest #2 after scoring the second goal of his team during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers match between United States and Costa Rica at Lower.com Field on October 13, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Tim Weah and Sergiño Dest were responsible for the two USMNT goals against Costa Rica. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

The USMNT recovers from an early blow

The evening began ominously. Smoke from pregame fireworks hadn’t even cleared. A towering tifo lingered. “The future is now,” it read, and at 7 o’clock, ever so briefly, optimism was fresh. World Cup qualifying was still young. So was this talented American squad, its oldest outfield player 24 years old, its brightest stars at Juventus and Barcelona, its average age younger than ever before.

But 59 seconds into the match, Costa Rica struck. Columbus fell silent. Bryan Ruiz, the longtime Ticos wizard, unlocked the U.S. right side with an inventive back-heel. Ronald Matarrita beat Dest down the line. Matarrita’s cross found its way to an unmarked Keysher Fuller at the back post.

Fuller’s volley was tame. But goalkeeper Zack Steffen, a mildly controversial choice to start over Matt Turner, seemed to be put off by Costa Rican striker Jonathan Moya, who was right in his lap.

And Moya wasn’t offside, because back where the cross came from, having tried to prevent it, Dest was all the way off the pitch, keeping every Costa Rican player onside.

Dest, though, would soon redeem himself. At the end of a 13-pass move, he danced inside onto his non-dominant left foot and sent a thunderbolt into the top corner to level the score at one.

And not only did he do it with his left foot, but also with an untied left shoe. 

“I think my shoelaces were loosened,” Dest said with a smile after the game. He’d just watched the goal back in the locker room, likely marveling at it like the rest of us. “And [the shoe] was not tied.”

How the USMNT built momentum and broke Costa Rican resistance

The first half ended even. As the game wore on, though, it tilted toward the hosts. Costa Rica bunkered, often with nine or 10 of its 11 players behind the ball. Against Canada last month, and at times against Jamaica last week, the U.S. had failed to penetrate bunkers. But Wednesday, it did, consistently. Its positional play stretched Los Ticos at the seams. The ball zipped around the attacking half, and into dangerous areas, at attackers’ feet.

What finally broke Costa Rican resistance, though, was an onslaught. It was volume. Momentum. The visitors, when they won possession, couldn’t get out of their bunker and ceded the ball right back to the U.S. 

“They had no outlets,” Berhalter said. “And we did a good job, with our midfielders, pinning them in. Our center backs cleaned everything up that was coming out. And it really helps you gain momentum in the game. I mean, there was a time when we’d lose the ball, get it right back; lose the ball, get it right back. It helps you sustain attacks.”

One of those periods of sustained control began in the 65th minute. The U.S. entered Costa Rica’s half, and for a full 60 seconds, the ball stayed there. The Americans lost it twice. But they shut down all counterattacking avenues. They won it right back. They recycled possession.

Shortly after the second recovery, a Costa Rican mistake allowed Dest to play in Weah, who finally broke the deadlock, and secured a result that the USMNT, with a 1.4-0.2 Expected Goal advantage, thoroughly deserved.

“We dominated the first half, dominated the second half,” Weah said. “And we got the reward for it.”

Latest news

Tinubu apologises over incorrect claim on PVC, says it was a mistake

Tinubu says he is sorry for any confusion his statement about PVC may have caused. ...

Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Deal and the Post-Console World

Microsoft’s war chest is a dynamo. With revenues that rival the GDP of a small nation, it’s got enough...

Why Airlines Are Fighting the 5G Rollout

the activation of C-Band frequencies by AT&T and Verizon means that improved 5G networks are now available for millions...

A Bug in iOS 15 Is Leaking User Browsing Activity in Real Time

For the past four months, Apple’s iOS and iPadOS devices and Safari browser have violated one of the internet’s...
- Advertisement -

How to Get Work Done—From Anywhere

I’ve been traveling full-time or living abroad for the past 15 years. All the while I’ve worked one job...

Europe’s Move Against Google Analytics Is Just the Beginning

Because Google could access data in plain text, the data wasn’t protected from potential surveillance, the body’s decision says....

Must read

Tinubu apologises over incorrect claim on PVC, says it was a mistake

Tinubu says he is sorry for any confusion his...

Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Deal and the Post-Console World

Microsoft’s war chest is a dynamo. With revenues that...
- Advertisement -

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you