Weston McKennie has continued to blossom into one of the top young players in Europe and with the U.S. Men’s National Team and the American midfielder praised the impact of his youth career for getting to where he is today.
McKennie returned to the United States as he continues his offseason before returning to Italy for the start of Juventus preseason camp. The 22-year-old got to see his old stomping grounds at FC Dallas this week, reuniting with several of the key figures who watched him develop within the club’s academy as a young kid.
Although he never played a competitive match for the FC Dallas first team, McKennie continues to credit his early opportunities within the Texas-based club.
“I thank FC Dallas for so much,” McKennie said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “For believing in me, especially through the hard times. They helped me when I went through rough times with the U-17’s. When I came back they helped put the pieces back together, mentally and emotionally, and physically as well.
“FC Dallas set a real professional environment for me,” McKennie said. “We trained on Field 2, and Field 1 is literally right across from you. You’re able to see the pros over there. You’re thinking, it’s so close. It’s right there. So you gave everything you could to make sure that you’d get to that field one day. Obviously they helped me so well that I was able to make the jump over to Europe instead.”
McKennie spent eight years within FC Dallas academy before embarking to Europe as the first step of his professional career. The midfielder earned valuable experiences with Bundesliga side Schalke, participating in the competitive German Bundesliga and featuring in the historic UEFA Champions League.
After earning a loan spell to Serie A powerhouse Juventus, McKennie made the move permanent earlier this season and got to lift two domestic trophies along the way. Playing for Juventus has not only forced McKennie into new challenges as a player, but has given him the opportunity to work with some of Europe’s biggest names.
McKennie teamed up with Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo this season, winning the Italian Super Cup and Coppa Italia trophies, despite falling just short of the league title in Serie A. Ronaldo has continued to break records at his seasoned age of 36 and McKennie has relished his time with one of the best players to ever step onto the pitch.
“It’s been a true blessing to play with him,” McKennie said. “He’s taught me a lot of things: discipline, professionalism, drive, hunger. Things I felt I had, but things I also needed to improve, and he’s helped with that.”
McKennie is coming off a sensational season for Juventus and also with the USMNT, winning the inaugural Concacaf Nations League earlier in June. For now he will rest and recover before getting back into preparation for another go at trophies in Italy, and the start of World Cup Qualifying this Fall with his USMNT teammates.