Weston McKennie played his sixth straight 90-minute game for Juventus over the weekend, and while he has not scored this season, his play has him at the top of the mountain of USMNT players in in Europe.
Ahead of the 2023-24 season, Weston McKennie came back to Juventus with his tail between his legs. In the middle of a difficult campaign last year, he left the club for a loan spell with Leeds United, which in hindsight was an ill-advised move that turned out to be a disaster.
Leeds manager Jesse Marsch was fired quickly and McKennie never adapted to a team that was going down, and fast, in the Premier League. He quite frankly played the worst games of his career at Leeds, and when the buy option was not picked up, a move back to Juventus seemed equally as doomed.
Many pundits had slammed McKennie in Italy for his often-clownish demeanor and an overall view that Juventus had moved past the American. Yet McKennie’s biggest champion has been his coach, Massimiliano Allegri, who has always found value in the midfielder. After an impressive summer tour, Allegri nixed talks of a transfer and McKennie was back in good graces with the team. Whether that was the case with the fans was a different story, however.
The season began and it seemed that McKennie and fellow American Timothy Weah would be fighting for minutes, but then Juventus was hit by Paul Pogba’s failed drug test and suddenly McKennie found himself playing more and more. Today he’s become a huge piece of Allegri’s attack.
Finding His Form
McKennie has played 12 of Juventus’ 13 games as a starter, seven of them on the right, the rest in his preferred central role. After the game against Inter Milan over the weekend, McKennie had played all 90 minutes in the last six matches.
His hard work and versatility have made him a locked starter, and the 25-year-old has delivered with his professional and hard-working performances. McKennie has become one of the most consistent American players in Europe without question.
The box-to-box presence McKennie has with the USMNT has always been something different at Juventus. Accustomed to the passing midfielders, McKennie provides a lot of hustle and a lot of ground covered, and he is a constant motor for the Juve midfield.
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Even the tough Juventus supporters have begun to come around and re-embrace the young American. On Juventus social media you can’t go one week without a post about McKennie joking and just having fun. The fans have begun to understand that off the field McKennie is as fun as they come, while on the field he is a competitive beast and fights for every inch.
While his play isn’t as glamorous as the goal scoring exploits of Christian Pulisic or Folarin Balogun, McKennie has grown at Juventus. He’s gone from simply doing a lot of running and providing heart to a player who is reading the game much more clearly and continues to use his speed and recovery tools to his advantage.
In an interview with Sky Sport Italia, McKennie is very clear on what he wants at Juventus, especially after the disappointing loan spell at Leeds.
“At the end of the day, when I came back, I think it was important for me in general to have an experience like that, to have that happen to me at this moment of my career, because when I came back it felt like I was coming back here for the first time again,” he said.
“When I first came to Juventus, nobody knew who I was. Everybody doubted me, everybody was against me, and I think it was important for me because it put chips back on my shoulder. That’s when I perform best and prove that I can do it and that I belong, so it was nice to come back and have that feeling again.”
Allegri has continued to heap praise on the American midfielder, and while he may not have the stats on paper, one thing is for sure — there is no better and more consistent American playing in a top team right now than Weston McKennie.