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Americans Abroad Breakdown: Weston McKennie’s frustrating performance against Augsburg

Schalke as a whole was very poor in Sunday’s lopsided loss to FC Augsburg, and Weston McKennie was no exception.

McKennie endured a rough day at the office in Schalke’s 3-0 home defeat to Augsburg, and that was not just because it was his errant pass in the opening minutes that led to Eduard Lowen’s free kick winner. McKennie had a handful of unnecessary and sloppy turnovers during his 74 minutes on the field, his erratic passing from deep positions leading to a number of threatening Augsburg counterattacks.

The young American did have some bright moments — including on a long ball upfield in the first half that gave Schalke one of its best scoring chances of the day — but most of them came on the defensive side of the ball when he showed off his trademark energy, speed, and range to help break things up.

Overall, though, McKennie, like Schalke, never really got going on Sunday as their winless run extended to nine games. He started the match as one of the team’s two central midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but was asked to drop deep in between the centerbacks almost immediately after his gaffe in the fifth minute under little pressure proved costly.

The tactical adjustment from Schalke manager David Wagner may have been done with the idea of trying to avoid a repeat of those type of turnovers, but McKennie had a few more giveaways in the defensive third and never truly looked comfortable playing so deep when his team was in possession.

The U.S. Men’s National Team regular did do a solid job of moving the ball mostly side to side between central defenders Salif Sane and Matija Nastasic, resulting in a personal pass completion percentage of 90.6 for McKennie. That stat might look good on paper, but the majority of his completed passes were not forward ones and came under little duress against an Augsburg side that sat in the mid-block and refused to high press in order to stay compact so as to hit on the counter.

What’s more, McKennie — who has said multiple times recently that he feels most comfortable playing as an 8 that can roam more so than a 6 — seemed a bit tactically unsure as to which spaces to fill in certain moments. One play midway through the second half showed his unfamiliarity with the role he was in, as he positioned himself in the midfield before realizing to drop further back to provide a more open outlet.

Even then, he was on the whole a bit timid, perhaps as a result of that early mistake, in asking or showing for the ball in a number situations. When he found himself in possession, McKennie failed to break lines with that clean first pass forward that teams need in order to build up attacks.

That might not be a weapon in his arsenal and something Wagner needs to better consider going forward, but it was part of the reason Schalke could not string together many attacking sequences and why the team had to play to wide options when trying to build out so often.

One of McKennie’s last contributions before being subbed off was a flubbed back pass that he hustled to stop by committing a foul. Tellingly, McKennie smacked the ground in frustration after the whistle was blown, a clear sign that he knew he should have done better. Not only on that play but in the game.

The good news for McKennie and Schalke is that they will not have to wait long to try and erase Sunday’s lackluster performance from their minds. They have another showdown on against relegation-threatened Fortuna Dusseldorf on the cards for Wednesday, and that might serve as the perfect opportunity to bounce back.

Not just with a much-needed win, but with a better showing as well.


  1. I think the criticism is fair at its base, but a little bit excessive to devote an entire article to it alone. Given some of the terrible performances from players (many of whom I really like) like Daniel Lovitz, Paxton Pomykal, Cristian Roldan, and others in MLS – none of which got their own feature – it does cause me to question whether the American soccer media feels like it has to be perceived as unimpressed with a player simply because they play in a top league. One of the points that really stood out to me was the 90% pass completion stat being misleading (which I actually agree with) given the lack of key passes and the nature of the pass volume being simply to retain possession, but I’m still waiting on the SBI piece that deconstructs the praise of a player like Darlington Nagbe who essentially does this exact same thing in MLS and gets applauded for it.

    Anyway, just my two cents. I’m not saying this is a crap article or even going so far as to say it’s a hit job. I’d only highlight the rarity of this level of criticism on any player whatsoever in the USMNT player pool, and wonder why after two games in a restarted season under weird circumstances this is the narrative you wanted to strike up. It just seems odd, especially given the riches of poor play from USMNT players closer to home on a more routine basis that never seem to attract similar scrutiny. It seems rather selective, and I’m not sure why just yet.

    • I think you can probably chalk that up to everyone else being shut down. There was also a number of comments the previous match on whether Wes had a good game or not so I could see why to SBI an article devoted to Wes’s match would drum up interest. Even the in a typical MLS summer season with Euro leagues off I don’t know how many people would read a match breakdown of a single mls player.

      • Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Interest in McKennie and the young players abroad in top leagues is certainly higher.

  2. so only certain players can be criticized…got it!!!! This fan base is becoming more and more of a joke!!! He’as just pointing out things I saw and mentioned last week and they’ve continued this week, which means that side of his game is not progressing just yet, so instead of making this about the need to criticize Bradley more how about not deflecting and talk about what’s happening on the field with said player?!

    • Keeping it real is a hater! There’s 10 commenters like this on every site or outlet, that allows comments. Keeping it real has got to have Bradley nuts, to go with that wine! McKennie had a rough match. Franco actually watched it. I saw last week’s May 16th match, McKennie played a lot better than his match against Augsburg.

      • I don’t know if he’s a hater or not but I do agree that his type of comments are prevalent on most websites, and it reeks of this mentality that because certain players have gone over to europe they are above critique, while MLSers are constantly criticized for not going to europe not matter how well they play!

        I’ve always been up front about players striving to go abroad to play for teams in the top 5 leagues because the highest leveled players are there which increases ones potential, but I have also been consistent with my message that europe isnt for every player and those players that stay domestic shouldnt be diminished because of it! The NT should continue to have a healthy mix of MLSers and European players like it always has, and this idea that MLSers dont belong on the NT by some is borne out of ignorance and tunnel vision

    • SO THEN show me an article that heavily criticizes Bradley’s atrocious performences in a USMNT jersey that last few years, the way this site does to Bradley’s competition. If your crying about people showing the double standard and the extra protection spoiled players get, then Prove me wrong. The Burden is on you to show it.

      • Keeping It Real- An article is written about McKennie’s performance in a match, and your 1st instinct is to criticize the site. As if SBI has only one writer. Did you watch the match? McKennie had a bad game!! Instead of talking about the match, you go off on a tangent by throwing in the Bradleys, who have nothing to do with McKennie’s play. Now, you want other commenters to prove that a whole site is not being payed by writing puff pieces on a club coach and an injured player? I have yet to read a comment of yours, where you demonstrate, you understand the tactic of ‘Playing out of the back!’ Why are you on the Bradley’s sac? Why do you care about finding a negative article? Why EVERY article you mention the Bradley’s? They control the USSF and media sites because they’re part of the deep state?! LOL. WE GET IT!! YOU HATE THE BRADLEY’S! They are old news!!

  3. Wow. A complete hit Job on mckennie. the Player is playing DM and CB in the formation and expected to be the CM and AM as well. The fact that he is already given so much responsibility at 21 years old, just shows his level of expectation. This site goes crazy over Bradley back passes and side passes.

    SBI soccer, working for the Bradley’s.


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