Weston McKennie has only played in two Bundesliga matches under new manager David Wagner, but the 20-year-old American midfielder is already receiving great praise.
Despite Schalke’s 3-0 loss to defending league champs Bayern Munich on Saturday, Wagner did not hold back his excitement for working with McKennie who is expected to be a key figure for the club once again this season.
“He is an outstanding talent in the No. 6 and No. 8 position,” Wagner said in an interview with Fox Sports. “He has a great working mentality which you need and he is brave on the ball as well. He also has a good header. He’s only 20-years-old so there is still more to come, but we are happy to have him in our team and we will try to support him and help him in his development. I think he is one of the key players for Schalke and also one of the key players in the Bundesliga. We will try to help him continue on this stage.”
McKennie played numerous positions for Schalke last season as the club tried for any consistency in what proved to be a disappointing campaign. The former FC Dallas academy player saw time in the backline as well as a second forward, but it isn’t likely he will play those roles under the German-American manager.
“This year the coach and I see eye-to-eye and a clear role for me in the No. 6 and No. 8 positions,” McKennie said. “I think this year is not like last where I was a utility player at several other positions. This is better for me and my understanding and what my role for the team is.”
McKennie now has 49 league appearances under his belt as he now tries to help Schalke back into European qualification for next season. He got his first taste of the UEFA Champions League last season, facing the likes of EPL giants Manchester City as well as Porto, Galatasaray, and Lokomotiv Moscow.
The club has yet to win so far in this early Bundesliga season, but will try to change that on Saturday at home against Hertha Berlin. McKennie has already seen the small changes that Wagner has brought to the club and feels confident under Wagner going forward.
“The coach is trying to instill confidence in all of us and in our play,” McKennie said. “Last season we played a lot of over the top and long balls, this year we’re trying to change our style and connect with one another. Have the confidence to want the ball and get the ball. It’s paying off in training so far.”
Schalke have one point from their opening two league matches, but face winnable opponents in Hertha Berlin, Paderborn, and Mainz over their next three fixtures.