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Weston McKennie disagrees with notion the USMNT lacks an identity

If the U.S. Men’s National Team has a clear identity right now, Weston McKennie believes it is based largely on the camaraderie that currently exists between the players.

Speaking on ESPN show Banter after taking part in the German Bundesliga’s return to action over the weekend, McKennie responded to a question about the USMNT’s identity by making it clear that he believes the team has one.

“Whenever I think of the national team, I think of the collective group,” McKennie told ESPN. “That we know what we want to do, we know the type of players we have, and everybody knows what they have to offer, what we can do and everyone knows our abilities.

“When they say it’s a lack of identity, I don’t agree with that at all either. Our group is so close together, and so molded together and understand each other so well. It’s something I haven’t experienced in a long time.”

McKennie’s comments come after USMNT teammate Zack Steffen recently questioned the team’s identity, expressing his belief that the USMNT is a young team still trying to figure itself out.

“We don’t have an identity right now,” Steffen told ESPNFC. “We are very young and inexperienced and immature in the international soccer world right now and we are trying to find our feet, we are trying to find leadership, we are trying to find our playing style.

“It is so weird because it is a national team so you get guys from everywhere and there is always guys hanging around that are older, but three quarters of this team is new so it is a weird time because we are trying to build a camaraderie and brotherhood and do all these things. It is a process, though. It takes time. It is tough. It is not easy.”

At the club level, McKennie played in his first competitive match in two months last Saturday in Schalke’s lopsided loss to Borussia Dortmund. The German Bundesliga season had been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but games resumed behind closed doors this past weekend.

McKennie saw the field for Schalke in the club’s first game back, starting and going the distance in a 4-0 drubbing to rivals Borussia Dortmund.

“It was awkward,” said McKennie. “It felt like soccer but it didn’t feel like soccer at the same time. No fans, not really an atmosphere. You kind of have to really depend on your self motivation and drive to really give your 100 percent in the game.

“Obviously we took a big L this past weekend in the Revierderby. In that game, you could really tell we’ve been out of it for quite a long time.”

McKennie also touched on the individual and team performances put forth in that one-sided affair, stating bluntly that neither he nor Schalke enjoyed their best day at the office against Dortmund.

“I felt like we didn’t play with the passion that was actually demanded of the game. There wasn’t a lot of motivation,” said McKennie. “For me, I may not have had my best game, but motivational wise — to cover ground, to run there, to go into tackles here — I tried my best even though technically you came late to every ball because they’re gifted like that and they can play out of those small spaces and the pressure.

“It was difficult as a collective and as a team. It was something we thought would have turned out better, but it was one of those days that nothing really clicked for us and we definitely didn’t perform the way we thought we would have and could have.”


  1. i will be curious whether the change from cordeiro and berhalter to the actual soccer playing parlow will change the executive approach to the team. my hope is a soccer player with world cups on her resume will cut through the crap and start viewing this as what gets actual results. berhalter could only engage in his experiment without results because he was backed by the executives. the players surely noticed the executive attitude and the room to contest them. maybe under parlow the players will feel more room to demand coaching performance and results. maybe mckennie doesn’t get that when the team reconvenes US Soccer has changed.

    • Executives have been Presidents of US Soccer Federation since 1999. Every major achievement in modern US Soccer history has occurred under an “executive”. Contrary to the tin foil hat conspiracy spreaders the President of USSF is not sticking their finger in the day to day operations of USMNT and neither will Parlow. Carlos Bocanegra, Angela Hucles, and Earnie Stewart who all had over 100 caps for NTs picked Berhalter. Maybe just maybe they know more about soccer than you or I do.

  2. This conversation cannot even take place without an agreed upon definition of what “identity” means. Really, what is it? Steffan and McKinnie’s idea of what those things mean can be completely different are certainly different from what readers here would think.

    • Yeah, in light of the Canada away game and the fact this is a new group taking over, I kind of want to see some leadership and more fire. I want to see the players take ownership — and it’s players who play the games. Right now it’s a weird thing where the talent coming up is what is going to change our standing, but they are young and mostly early career and thus don’t act like they own the place. To me they own the place as much as or more than a coach who has less tenure than most of them. He either helps them get their goals accomplished or not. Previous generations have had no problem saying, this is not working. USSF has also stepped in when necessary. But at least through Cordeiro USSF had veered towards style over substance. Since Cordeiro and Jay Berhalter are gone I am curious if USSF goes back to more pragmatism and results. But in any event the coach is there to serve the team and the players should be asking for what they want. I worry so many players are new or at the end of their career and maybe feel they owe GB for being around, that they instead defer to a coach with modest credentials and results. Bradley is the last of the old guard who could mouth off. But he would likely end his international career if he spoke up.

      • Nagbe is a perfect example of what you share, there has to be more to it, to him not being called up… the ussoccer shitshow cant get any worse after these executive moves…


    • Nagbe was called he turned them down because it was taking too much time away from his family. He’s said so countless times in the last year.

  3. I kind of agree with Steffen on this. “…we are trying to find leadership, we are trying to find our playing style”.

    When Weston said “Our group is so close together, and so molded together and understand each other so well” doesn’t really translate to the results and caliber of play we’re seeing on the field as of late.

  4. YOU are the identity, Weston. I really do feel like that. Out of all the next generation players, he is the player who wears his heart on his chest, and who isn’t afraid to get into the face of the other team’s players. His personality on the field is what we need as our identity, and is the next in the line of fiery USMNT players. Go ‘head Texas!!

    • Then one would hope the next time, Andres Guardado, or anyone grabs his throat, he lets 2 fists, from Texas fly! That was sad, for me to see, the US’ biggest rival, best player grab his throat, and he did nothing about it! Anyone who watched the GC final remembers. A choke grab is an automatic two piece from KFC! If he’s not afraid to get in the face of someone, he better not forget his hands. 1st-A man doesn’t take that kind of disrespect. 2nd- McKennie & Steffen need to get on the same page. It’s a red flag that they are saying contradictory stuff.

    • personally i would like to see the young leadership be more vocal, including in criticism. they may be new and feel like they owe something to GB for handing them the keys at their age, but that should have happened anyway. this is their team and they should take charge. they will outlast GB — most coaches last 4-6 years tops. so own this thing and if it’s not being run right speak up. pomykal verbally and pulisic with his sulk have been the only ones with the right degree of pride and anger. i want them to be like this is a good generation coming up and we will not let you mess this up with stupid tactics. i have yet to hear anyone really endorse this new stuff, but they are also too quiet in not saying it sucks.

  5. the implication is the players get along well and feel patriotic, but he doesn’t say they’re bought in the system or think it works. depends what “identity” means. personally i feel like mckennie makes talent/athlete contributions but is not particularly leveraged by The System, ditto most of the rest.

    • So Berhalter has built the best team chemistry that Wes has been around but everyone hates the system and don’t believe in it? He was asked about “identity” that’s why he didn’t talk about the tactics.

      • are you serious? you ask most soccer people about “identity” in a soccer discussion and it’s not usually how big of buddies the team is. it’s about tactics and the way they play. as with about everyone but pomykal and pulisic, he avoided criticizing the coach but then to do so basically admitted he was redefining “identity” in an unusual way.

      • He’s talking about playing for one another and putting the team first not who his buddies are. Watch whole interviews or listen to these guys give interviews on podcasts, they believe in the tactics and they believe in the culture. Just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t mean it isn’t. He didn’t criticize the manager because he didn’t have anything to criticize. If you watch the Steffen interview he criticizes Sarachan’s lack of direction and praises how much better it is under Gregg.

      • That is not what I have seen. I have seen iffy results, Pomykal say the wrong people are being called and played, Steffen saying we still lack identity, Pulisic upset but not speaking about it, and the team going through the motions of saying they are trying to learn the system. Bedoya also recently spoke up saying it simply doesn’t work. I have heard ZERO people saying they think the system already works or is some great idea. I instead hear cliches of support, we’re giving this 100%. If you can’t see the difference, sorry, your problem. As I note above, I will be curious when game play re-starts, and money is on the table, and Cordeiro and J. Berhalter are gone, whether the players remain as deferential.

    • In a March 31 interview with Herculez Gomez, when asked about what it will take to surpass Mexico, Adams says “Obviously Gregg is very keen on the tactics and every single player is buying into it now.” In an April 2 interview Wes is asked the same question, Herc ending with “your seeing progress” Wes responds immediately “yes” then he talks about he doesn’t want to use age as an excuse but they are a team that hasn’t had a lot of time together he then says “the way we are trying to play is something that takes time to synchronize everyone together, it’s an understandable system but you kind of have to be together a bit more often to get the hang of it. Me personally I think once we are able to do that and the more often we get in the people will start realize the type of team we actually are and what type of abilities we have to offer.” He then goes on to say that the group hasn’t played a lot together because of injuries to him, Tyler and Pulisic. Those big three have played 62 minutes together under Berhalter, which they dominated Ecuador. Those are also the only minutes Brooks has played with CP and Adams under Berhalter. Brooks has been healthy for two matches under 3G, we’ve won both in dominant fashion. We’ve never had Brooks, Adams, Pulisic, on the field with either Altidore or Sargent up top.
      As for your baseless claim that players are afraid to speak up for fear they’ll be cut. Pomykal, who I can’t even find these scathing comments you keep referring to, was called back in in January, and was named to the Olympic qualifying roster so it doesn’t seem that Gregg holds a grudge.

    • Jordon Morris in an interview with Taylor Twellman last week, “I was playing with confidence the coaching staff over there (USMNT) does a really good job of making sure all the players know their role on the field. It’s so explicit in how to play in your role and how that fits into the team so that when you step out onto the field you just have this confidence just to go out and play.”
      In the same interview asked about identity Morris disagrees that the team lacks identity and echoes the comments above about everyone knowing what they are supposed to do for the team.
      Christian Roldan then adds after talking about how the coaching staff has kept the group and potential future call ups connected primarily through group texts including what he called competitions within the texts. He then says “… the foundation of what we’re trying to do with the national team and how we’re trying to play and how we will score goals as a team is something that I think has been implemented really well. It’s you know obviously we’re going to have some tough games but we know how we’re going to score and I think that’s the beauty of playing in this system.”

    • I don’t disagree that possession soccer may not be the best for McKennie at least at this point in his career but he’s a viable place holder until someone else comes along. Is that Pomykal, Johnny Cardosa, Ledezma, Vassilev, Mendez, or if Pulisic or Reyna shifts inside who is to say. But it does fit with a lot of the other younger players. Even with the US’s expanding player pool you’ll never find a style that fits all 11 guys.


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