The 22-year-old Juventus midfielder is spearheading a new wave of American talent while emerging as one of the sport’s strongest voices in the campaign against social injustice
All his teammates were exhausted, sat around the edge of the field, stretching and sweating after a hard practice session in the height of summer, but Weston McKennie still had energy to burn.
The United States men’s national soccer team were using the Cleveland Browns’ training facility during the 2019 Gold Cup, and the young midfielder decided to entertain his colleagues – and anyone else in eyeshot – by turning his hand to the sport of their NFL hosts.
Passes were flung 50, 60 yards, with perfect spirals and textbook quarterback technique, from left to right, right to left. Increasing the difficulty level, McKennie would run in one direction and fire the ball back the other way. Next up: 50-yard field goals, no problem.
“You’re looking at him and thinking, ‘This guy could easily have been an NFL athlete,’” says USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter, recalling the scene. “He’s an unbelievable athlete. He’s messing around with the ball and the Cleveland guys from the Browns were there watching him as well. They were like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’”
In the eyes of his coaches and teammates, those minutes of post-practice exertion exemplified McKennie – the athletic talent, the boundless energy, the natural inclination to entertain and the work ethic that combined to earn a dream move to Juventus, where he plays on loan from Schalke, at the age of 22.
It was by a quirk of fate that the athletic gifts McKennie possesses came to be applied to football. When he was six, his father, John, a staff sergeant in the army, was due for a PCS – permanent change of station. One option considered was Alaska, but the family instead decided on Germany, and the Ramstein Air Base, around 10 miles outside Kaiserslautern. It was upon arriving there that McKennie was first introduced to football. Continue reading