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USMNT should look into starting McKennie in an advanced midfield role


The developments surrounding the U.S. Men’s National Team players in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday could potentially alter how the USMNT lines up for its October friendlies.

With everyone healthy, Christian Pulisic would’ve been looked at as the main creator in the final third, whether it be as a No. 10 or on the wing.

Now with Pulisic’s status in doubt for the Colombia and Peru friendlies, Weston McKennie can slide into that role and be successful for the USMNT.

Sliding McKennie forward in the midfield isn’t a foreign concept to the 20-year-old, who lined up in a forward midfield role in Schalke’s 1-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow.

McKennie produced his normal defensive work rate, with six interceptions and one tackle, but he didn’t look out of place in his advanced spot on the field.

In addition to scoring the game-winning goal in the 88th minute, the 20-year-old won eight aerials, made two key passes and completed 72.2 percent of his passes.

Starting McKennie as the central attacking midfielder isn’t an ideal situation for the USMNT, but it’s possible given the versatility of the Texas native.

The positioning of McKennie in front of a defensive midfield duo featuring Tyler Adams and either Michael Bradley or Wil Trapp isn’t an indictment on the program’s depth chart at the position, it’s more of a way to get the best players on the field at all costs.

Sure, you could call this alteration Klinsmann-esque, but the difference between this idea and the experiments of the former manager is this actually makes sense.

With a healthy Pulisic in the lineup, the USMNT would align itself differently with one wing position already occupied, Julian Green could slide into the role behind a lone striker.

But given the players currently on the roster for Colombia and Peru, Green fits in as more of a wide player, despite the playing time he’s received centrally at the club level.

Green could also be used as a second striker beneath Bobby Wood, Josh Sargent or Andrija Novakovich.

In this situation, Adams would drift over to the right to combine with DeAndre Yedlin, while McKennie starts in front of Bradley as an attack-minded No. 8 with Timothy Weah on the opposite wing.

It’s a complex web of alignments that will be unstrung by interim manager Dave Sarachan in the coming days, but after his performance in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, McKennie is worth giving a start in an attacking role in one or both of the upcoming friendlies.


  1. I think the ability to take on multiple defenders is not required for a #10, that role requires vision, the ability to operate in tight spaces without losing the ball, and the ability to thread passes forward through the defense. My choice would be to put players that have shown the ability to beat multiple defenders on the outside where multiple is 2 (or 3) not 4 or 5.

    The comments here that say Pulisic is the USMNT’s #10 miss the point that at least in the past two seasons, he has been most successful playing on the wing and to a lesser degree up top. While I really like him in those spots, I don’t think he has shown that he is the player who can orchestrate his teammates from the middle. Just because he is, right now, the player most able to take on 2 or more defenders on the dribble does not mean he is the one who can do that AND then make a pass to unlock the defense; he does have the tools, I just have not seen him do that often enough.

    True, I don’t think McKinnie has shown that either. Green did well enough against Brazil as a #10, something I did not expect. I would say if the aim is to win, that Green should start as the #10. If the aim is to try players in new positions, then McKinnie might get a run-out.

  2. I’m not sure yet where he should ideally play, but this kid is awesome. He does what the team needs game to game, whatever position he plays. That’s why Shalke rates him so highly. And he does have attacking skills. Mostly he just competes.

  3. Why don’t people feel comfortable admitting that nobody really knows that much about McKennie yet? Even the most religious followers of USMNT players (and I count myself as one) have scarcely seen him play a dozen full matches yet. Seems like even Schalke knows that his potential his “ideal role” is not cast in stone yet (he’s been played at CB, outside back, and multiple MF roles… not to mention he wears #2, and not cos he’s Clint Dempsey). He’s 20. He’s good. He could do lots of things. Let’s see where it goes, no?

  4. Do we think Bradley or Trapp is the solution for 2022? If not, what’s the point of this? Why don’t we play him in his natural position? Especially since we’re far more likely to figure out who our more attacking midfielders are (Pulisic, Amon, Green, Rubin, Arriola, Saief, Buscio, Carleton, maybe Reyna, and both Sargent and Weah can also play there) than find another CM who can be put in pen to our XI (Durkin, Parks, Roldan, Acosta, are the only up and comers i’m aware of, and only the first two are still all that young).

  5. And people wonder why they haven’t got a good attack, just keep throwing DCM into an attacking position. Not saying he wouldn’t be better than what they have had but let him play his best position as a 6/8 and call up more attack minded CMs

      • Saief can play that role, so can Lletget though I not a big fan, Emo can and has been getting mins finally even though its SPL, Rowe can too but he seems to have out of favor with the Revs and even Green but he’s has played all across the front it not be his best position but these are attack minded players which I don’t think Mckennie is he seems more of a physical 6/8. If he plays it and does well I’m all for it but he has mostly played deeper and has dabbled at CB. They have called in younger players with no first team experience so why not call in an Emo or switch a away from the 4-1-4-1 formation with 3 DCMs. I know I am a big Emo fan and get backlash for but I am a believer in that he can and will fill a position of need for the US so that CP can stay out wide where he is more dangerous. Most of his appearances for hibs this season have been reportedly good except for one, they all have said that he likes to be on the ball and get forward something that is lacking with the US right now.

  6. I didn’t see the recent Schalke game, but call me skeptical. The last I remember watching the USMNT, inserting Green in an advanced midfield role and removing McKennie for injury turned the match in our favor. I agree with the others that McKennie plays more like an 8, but I’ll allow he’s still very young and improving.

  7. Green should be the 10 and call GALL in to play the right wing, that is what he is currently playing for his club team. Is a no-brainer but then this is the type of coach we have to deal with.

  8. We already kind of saw this against Brazil. Tyler Adams and Mckennie in front of Trapp. That’s NOT an attacking midfield, at all. Play any attacker there before you play 3 defensive minded midfielders there. Mckennie is an 8, there are other attackers for the “10” spot.

    • Agreed. The whole premise of this article is based on the fact that if you call McKennie a “10” when you roll out the formation and give pregame player instructions that he will suddenly become a different player. It completely ignores the best fit for the players and asks them to ignore their natural tendencies on the field. Its the exact thing we saw against Brazil. Nothing has changed simply because he played one game in that role with his club.

      • Respectfully speaking, that’s the whole point. Friendlies can be a time to experiment with player positions. Let’s see what Mckennie offers in an advanced mid position against national level talent. Data points need to start somewhere, so increase the sample size (against variable opponents). I’ll bet Schalke will be equally interested as the MNT as to the outcome.

      • Going forward you will be hard to convince me that Pulisic is not the #10. Pulisic with Mckennie and Adams behind him. Weah and Gall on the flanks with Sargent up front is how I would open qualifying.

    • I completely agree that friendlies are the time to experiment. But we saw a midfield 3 of Trapp behind McKennie and Adams and we generated nothing at all offensively. This article is suggesting if we play McKennie in front of Adams and Trapp/Bradley that, offensiively, suddenly we might be onto something. Weve seen that trio and it doesnt work. Remove Trapp/Bradley, play either McKennie or Adams as the 6, the other as an 8, and add in someone else (Green/Pulisic/Saif when healthy) and lets see what we have. Not the same 3 DMs reimagined.

      • Didn’t he score on a set piece in the CL game? It’s not like he unlocked the defense with some brilliance and scored. He is an 8 or a 6 and probably a pretty good one. I like McKennie and Adams in those rolls. Unless someone like Reyna develops between now and the start of qualifying Pulisic is the #10.

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