Even the game-turning penalty, in Zimmerman’s estimation, was the result of some veteran savvy. He said after the game that he did not see Bale come across his path in the 18-yard box as he prepared to clear the ball as it bounced in front of him. He added that he thought Bale had intentionally positioned his leg to draw the foul.
“I think it was one of those where he probably just puts his leg not for the ball but to try to get in the way of me hitting the ball,” Zimmerman said. “Clever move. Wish I would have seen him out of the corner of my eye on trying to clear the ball. It was instinctive. It was quick. Little bit frustrated with that.”
The Americans will have to quickly regain their bearings. They play England, which defeated Iran, 6-2, to take the early lead in Group B, on Friday night.
With Wales bunkered in front of its goal, employing five defenders and stacking the rest of the team close by, the Americans, who enjoyed two-thirds of the possession in the first half, spent much of that time easing the ball from side to side, trying to find an opening, waiting for the Welsh to slip up or doze off for a moment.
The moment came, finally, in the 36th minute. Pulisic received the ball on the run and surged through the heart of the Welsh defense, dragging two defenders with him. Simultaneously, Weah was making a slashing run toward the goal from the wing. Pulisic slotted a perfectly weighted pass into the penalty area, where Weah stutter-stepped and flicked the ball into the net with the outside of his right cleat.
Weah then wheeled away from the goal and slid toward a corner flag, where his teammates engulfed him in celebration.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Weah, whose father, George, won a FIFA World Player of the Year award and a Ballon d’Or but never appeared in a World Cup. “He’s living this moment through me.”