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As details emerge of actions leading to McKennie’s suspension, Berhalter leaves door open for his USMNT return

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The mystery surrounding just what Weston McKennie did to be suspended from the U.S. men’s national team’s World Cup qualifiers against Canada and Honduras has been revealed, though USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter wasn’t about to confirm it.

According to a report by ESPN, McKennie was suspended for violating multiple team rules when he left the team hotel to go out in Nashville, and then brought an unauthorized guest into the team hotel, violating the team’s established COVID-19 protocols, put in place to protect the team from being exposed to an outbreak.

Berhalter was asked about the ESPN report, and whether it was an accurate depiction of the events that led to McKennie being sent back to Italy rather than playing in Wednesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but the USMNT coach wouldn’t confirm or deny any details about the exact actions that led to McKennie being left off the team for a pair of qualifiers.

“I think this is along the lines of information that’s not need-to-know,” Berhalter said when asked about the ESPN report. “This is a team environment, any conversations will remain between the team and I, and the team and the staff, and team and Weston and that’s how we’ll leave it. He violated policy. That’s as far as I’ll go with that.”

Berhalter did make it clear that McKennie still has a future with the USMNT, and has not ruled a return for him in October, when the Americans resume qualifying with another trio of matches.

“There would very rarely be a situation where a player would never be allowed back into national team camp,” Berhalter said. “That’s not how we operate. If you see the track record is guys in and out based on performance, and based on how they’re doing, and me and Weston have had long conversations. He’s a guy that I care for deeply. He’s a big part of the team, and I’m sure when he’s performing well, (he’ll) be back on the team.”

McKennie is facing plenty of backlash for what is his second documented incident of violating COVID-19 pandemic-related rules, with a suspension by Juventus coming in April after he hosted a party with teammates and guests, violating Italy’s strict policies about gatherings of groups of people during the pandemic.

The USMNT will now go into Wednesday’s qualifier against Honduras without one of its most influential players, a player who Berhalter sounded like he still wants to be a part of the program.

“People make mistakes, Weston apologized to the group, he apologized to me, and things happen,” Berhalter said. “The most important message that we’re trying to get through is that we’re here in camp for seven days. The intensity is incredible. It’s three finals in seven days, and we need everyone single-minded focus on what we’re trying to accomplish. And that’s the most important thing.

“By and large, the group is there, the group is focused on it,” Berhalter said.
“And sometimes when people aren’t, then you have to have a talk with them. And you have to, you know, sometimes enforce standards. That’s all part of it.

“Listen, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in a team, it’s not going to be the last time. It is upsetting to me, as a coach, it’s upsetting to Western, it’s upsetting players and staff, but it is what it is. And we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”

Comments

  1. Good call by berhalter. Punishment exceeds the crime, probably. But this sets the tone for the whole campaign. Makes sense to use it to light a little fire and create a sense of urgency for the team. We see now that they won, so at the least it’s no harm no foul.

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  2. There’s only one way a player would realistically violate covid protocols. He went out. Obviously. Look – he’s from Texas, and he was in Nashville after being stuck in Italy all year. He saw a girl in cowboy boots and he was done!
    He is only a man. Let’s all just get over ourselves. I’ll pay real money for any video of him line dancing. #freeweston

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  3. His punishment is so dumb. 1 game is enough and honestly I wouldn’t have suspended him over that. Oh wow, he banged some girl. Who cares, GgGGgg got a huge ego on him when he has been on camera with other people on the streets of nashville

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  4. GB sitting McKennie for 3 games is ludicrous. Of course McKennie has ‘the door open for a return’. Politics & ego are apparently more important than WCQ.

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  5. Weston apparently stood up with other team leaders talking about accountability and responsibility after the El Salvador draw. Then the next two nights broke team rules, dealing with being responsible. Either the rules are the same for Serie A player when we have 6 pts from 2 matches or zero points or there are no rules. And please please stop trying to compare to your teenage club team who partied before a tournament that’s absolutely ridiculous that you think a club tournament is the same.

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  6. I don’t think any of the posters here really know exactly what happened and although I am curious I think it should be kept within the team and I hope it stays that way because I think that will ultimately be the best thing for the team and for McKennie. Getting a win tonight would go a long way in putting the focus back on soccer and complaining/complimenting roster selections, tactics, on-field performances, etc. I hope they get the 3 and we end back there instead of where we are now.

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  7. By now I am sure McKennie’s agent has read him the riot act, and that is where the rubber hits the road. If you want to play for a team like Juventus, then agree to their high standards. Between his past indescretions in Turin, and now twice while on international duty, and how he is not a first-choice MF option in Turin, he has much bigger problems than asking forgiveness for being caught yet again. Juventus paid a high transfer fee for McKennie, and have every right to be furious, and may be serious on their threat to look to dump him to whomever in January. He has sent a clear message to his Juventus teammates, and to future employers, that he puts self before team and cannot be trusted.
    .
    Berhalter said the right thing – the door is not shut. It is up to Weston to start acting like a professional athlete if he wants to get selected again. His future selection would be based on current performance, which is going to be very hard now at Juventus with earning the coach’s trust. Yueill, who won’t touch the field, was brought in to send a message – nobody’s roster spot is guaranteed.
    .
    After this month’s round of qualifiers is over, it is time to keep watch on Musah and others who can fill his slot in October. McKennie likely has a long road back.

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  8. Ah pro soccer and its weekly super spreader events in packed stadiums, players without masks interacting with all kinds of people they don’t know on and off the field. Traveling through countless airports, train stations, bus rides and whatnot… Not to mention there isn’t even a universal vaccine mandate for fans or players.
    But sure be strict on those Covid protocols because we take it seriously.
    What a bunch of self righteous hypocritical patronizing nonsense!!
    Either you take covid danger seriously and you continue to ban fans and require players be vaccinated, etc.. or you stop pretending with these half baked contradictory measures.
    On Weston – wow he had someone over. Ok ban him a game and/or give him a fine. But becoming the gestapo of moral values and excluding him until further notice is bs. Like this sort of thing doesn’t happen in every sport all of the time.
    He didn’t break any laws, give him his one game ban and get on with it already. Bunch of sissies.

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      • SD- Edmond “Dantes” doesn’t want to get that athletes have safety measures that have to follow. He’s the Count of Monte Cristo, who’s been spitting the same stuff for 4, or 5 articles, now.

      • @ itsoktothink

        The only proven efficient way to protect from covid is the vaccine. Nothing else unless you are a self isolating hermit.
        So I ask you – is there a mandatory vaccine requirement for players? No there isn’t. And since vaccines are the ONLY proven efficient way to really prevent and protect from COVID then from the moment you don’t require them for athletes who breathe on each other all game you have no credibility. The rest are half assed measures like putting a band aid on a dam.
        So excuse for calling out this dumb hypocrisy to suspend under the guise of covid safety when pro soccer is contributing to the spread with mass events in states and countries where covid is rampant!
        Do you truly believe these covid protocols are in any form efficient? It’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors
        Require vaccines for all pro soccer players. You don’t play or train unless you’re 100% vaccinated. Require proof of vaccination for all fans in all stadiums in all leagues. Then yeh we can talk about real protocols that make a difference.

  9. re danny’s “scapegoat” argument below, depending exactly what happened, it does feel like an exaggerated action where GB reminds us who is boss. i say this because a coach sitting on 2 points could be taken as arrogant in assuming he will be the person deciding next window whether weston gets accepted back after honduras. mind you, i think a lot of coaches would answer these questions like they will continue to be boss, but one spin on it — along the lines of “scapegoating” — is this provides an opportunity to make a statement that you expect to be running the team on through the next window and beyond when it is not that obvious. and maybe buy yourself time. never been fired but i once read a sign you are about to get canned is the boss quits talking with you about future projects. so, conversely, talking like you will be manager in october to decide weston’s fate…..conveys something…..i’m pretty sure he has to pull at least a point tonight to remain head coach gregg and have this power over weston.

    and as i said below, while i would like to know what he did and what degree of actual covid risk poses, as it might justify different exclusions, one thing dingbat might consider with how harsh this is, is he needs the support of weston’s U20 teammates who grew up playing with him, and that the combination of results and upsetting weston’s pals might isolate him if mcbride has to think about it.

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  10. Who’s sibling did he bang?

    In all seriousness, failure is a teacher. He’s failed twice now. He’s let his family, friends, fans, country and his teammates down. If he learns from his mistakes and doesn’t screw up again then “it’s water under the bridge.” However, continuing to blatantly disregard rules should not be overlooked.

    As others have noted … this is the deepest talented pool of USMNT players we’ve had in a while. I think it’s actually the opposite. The quality from the starting 11 vs the 1st, 2nd and 3rd off the bench is noticeable and now that Weah, Mussah, McKennie, Reyna and Dest are all injured/suspended and several starters have played excessive minutes over the course of the last week … We might be at a breaking point. Pulisic is getting over COVID, Adams and Robinson have both played every minute of both game … the list goes on. This, to me, indicates a bigger problem. Either Beerholder doesn’t trust his bench players to perform or he fails to recognize when subs need to be made and could change the course of the game. Also … his roster selection leaves something to be desired.

    I don’t want to go as far as saying that tonight is a “Must Win” scenario but 2 or 3 points from 3 games is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. A loss tonight could potentially put us 7 points adrift of top of the group and depending on other games, 3 points out of an automatic qualification spot. If 24 points is the magic number, we have our work cut out for us.

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  11. Please accept my sincerest apologies, everyone. I was McKennie’s unauthorized guest that night, so I bear responsibility. I paid Weston $200 bucks to let me bunk with him, hide in his luggage, and sneak onto the team bus, but sadly the plan failed catastrophically.

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  12. This team has been touted as the deepest, most talented team the USMNT has ever fielded. It’s time to prove it. Weston screwed up. There were rules put in place and he chose to defy those rules. If he can’t stay committed to being a professional for 10 days during one of the most important stretches for the USMNT in 4 years, he deserves to be sent home and now it’s next man up.

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  13. But in all seriousness, this reminds me of Charlie Davies nearly ending his career (and life) on a stupid night of not doing what he agreed he would do for the National Team.

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    • all arguing about health protocols and punishment aside, yes. as a history reader i think lessons wear off after a period of time. it’s been 12 years. this is increasingly a new bunch of kids who might have been 10 or younger at that time.

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  14. Shame Weston didn’t just take a lap around the packed streets of Downtown Nashville like coach Gregg did.

    wait, can we get Gregg sent home for that? because that would work

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    • While I would love for Gregg to not be the coach and to have a real coach it is moronic to say that he is going to catch Covid from going on a jog outside without a mask on. Let me guess you drive around in your car by yourself with a mouth diaper on.

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    • So what you’re saying is we all should have the free-dumb to infect (and possibly kill) people because we might feel inconvenienced by masking, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. Okay then.

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      • To be fair Weston banging some rando the night before the game isn’t more likely to get anyone infected from covid during the window than him banging some rando the day before he comes to camp. Or even one of the other players could have picked it up from family or even picked it up on the 6 hour plane flights on the way in.

      • Rory: while I believe in covid rules I also think they are intended for abstract prophylactic purpose, and that if you wanted to assess the concrete worry, you would need to debrief him a la contact tracing. if he went to a mcdonald’s drivethrough with a single person, she might be vaccinated and could be tested. the bubble hasn’t burst that bad. if he went to a club, then you can’t contain that. USSF knows to some degree but has basically only leaked a few facts to support a decision. to me one game fits a single person hookup. that is punishment. two games is the bubble has burst and basically he is a covid risk to the rest. ok, so is he one?

        i am not a fan of punishing players extra based on stuff you did not see eg Juve stuff. the infamous Juve party was him and 2 teammates. if there was no covid we wouldn’t blink if he had two teammates and some girls and beers over. it was really about the girls. and to me taking Juve’s side on events — as with his club form stuff — is outsourcing his job to Juve. a college teammate and summer tournament teammate once tattled me out for a summer dissent red to our college coach, which was used to nag me for weeks. he didn’t tell the coach he was yelling at the ref longer and louder than i was because we were all furious at the calls, and he just picked me to punish. did GB ask McKennie for his version of the story?? so to me he should get “what he deserves” only in terms of what USSF sees.

      • Super Nintendo Chalmers: what I am saying is the McKennie spending a night with a “guest” is as likely to infect or kill anyone as is any other human interaction. Flying to the game in Honduras and taking a bus to/from the airport and the game is more of a danger to the physical well-being of US soccer players than what McKennie did. How did we ever survive decades of seasonal flu without flu rules?

    • DM- Human beings have hundreds of years of information, to understand how the flu works. COVID in 12 months killed 2.6 million people worldwide and 530,000 Americans specifically. 100 years ago, influenza killed hundreds of thousands. There’s no information on long term effects of COVID because it’s only been 2 years. Hence the name COVID-19. The unintended benefits, of wearing a mask and social distancing, is that flu cases dropped significantly. There are a lot of things more important than sports, a health crisis is one.

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  15. I think every player who comes into a USMNT squad should be reminded of the team and camp rules and Charlie Davies. If that doesn’t keep you on the straight and narrow, I don’t know that anything would.

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  16. No one to blame except McKennie for knowingly breaking the rules. Those who are commenting that he shouldn’t have been disciplined have obviously never been in a leadership position. Berhalter and co. literally have no choice except to send him home this window. Once rules are made they must be enforced, regardless of who it is, or else you risk losing the team and any respect from the rest of the players/staff. Something tells me this incident and the attention its getting will get thru to McKennie, and he will learn and grow from it. I still have high hopes for him and his future with the USMNT.

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    • You r correct. People who have never lead, or been in charge of anything of substance, don’t understand the discipline. If u start letting folks off the hook it becomes an avalanche quickly, and trust is lost everywhere, and your orhganization falls apart quickly. Most will never ne in charge and many who finally get into a position of responsibility learn quickly….or get taken advantage of and lose control….which means they aren’t getting that position again.
      Most simply could care less….they just want the US to win, this is an important player, so what’s the big deal!!!! I want this. This is important to me, what’s the problem! Guess what? Why can’t anyone use that for anything that matters to them then? Why is Weston, and fans desires so miuch ,more important than other issues? Things crumble quickly afyer that. If u r young or inexperienced I know u just don’t understand. That’s y u r young and inexperienced. The young who succeed quickly understand this quickly. The inexperienced, who never want to learn or can’t, usually wind up jaded, blaming everything and everyone else for the rest of their lives. It’s always someone/something else….not me!
      That’s a simple, but huge lesson in life. The vast majority never really get it, and they r left blaming other issues and people who do.

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    • whatever. a leader could do anything here from nothing to a lifetime ban and justify it as leadership. leadership would be punishment matches crime. i want to know exactly what he did to sort out 1 game from window ie whether he interacted with a ton of people and poses a health risk, or just one and is more of a rules and discipline problem. an exaggerated punishment begins to punish the team and fans as well.

      i also think — and some of y’all might consider this — you have a coach on thin ice who is ensuring a short team plays even shorter, who is not making parallel moves to fill the team up, and who may be at job risk if we leave this window on 2 points. and if the team is more angry at the coach than weston, they won’t care if you think it’s leadership, they will help push him off the plank. so you might consider weston’s friends on the team and how they take your extent of punishment.

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      • So Berhalter is banning one of the team’s most important players so that he can protect his own job security? That makes sense…
        Easiest way to protect his job is a W. Not some mental gymnastics of creating a scapegoat for a game which hasn’t yet been played. Keeping Weston available to get a much needed result makes a lot more sense than the story you have contrived.

    • I was a manager in a large organization for a decade +. If a manager didn’t enforce basic rules, he or she wouldn’t be manager for long. I would work with employees and always encouraged their input, but if they violate something so basic and important as this, possibly putting others at risk, you have to discipline them. I think this discipline is appropriate for the situation and my experience validates my opinion. I also spent some time as a classroom teacher. I learned that even with a good class, if you loosen rules and discipline, the class can degenerate quickly. Misbehavior by one that goes unpunished encourages misbehavior by others.

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  17. I think Canada was enough. Two games plus sent home seems a little excessive to me. It was Nashville for heavens sake. Not like in ES or Honduras. I think GB needs Weston more than Weston needs GB and for that reason…. all is forgiven, If GB is still coach on Thursday

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  18. Perhaps we can encourage Greg Berhalter to violate some COVID-19 pandemic-related rules so we can send him home for an extended period.

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  19. If the world cup, were 3 years away, I wouldn’t select him for 2 years. Since it’s closer, they’ll relent. But he’s a repeat offender, could’ve gotten anyone Covid, and showed a lack of leadership. Got to draw a line in the sand. This is foolishness of the highest order. Spare me the “he’s young”. Dude can read. He can follow rules.

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  20. It can’t be as earth shattering as some have made out to be, if he’ll be back next month. So whatever, now the focus is on how this team responds.

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  21. One game ban and a fine. These aren’t children and we shouldn’t be trying to teach the team a lesson. Going to WC is the priority- we need to win in Honduras and his on-field leadership, experience and toughness is exactly what we need to do that. I’m afraid he’s being setup to be the scapegoat to cover over gaping holes in the program that will become even more apparent when we lose. Sound familiar?

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    • I don’t think Berhalter is trying to teach him a lesson or make an example out of him. While we could very much use his presence on the field, he jeopardized the health and ultimately the careers of his teammates by violating protocol.

      There’s been a lot to criticize Berhalter for over the last 10 days, but I think this was handled well. Keep him away from the team so he doesn’t get anyone sick if he did manage to contract covid, but leave the door open to return in October, or whenever he’s playing well and has made amends with the team.

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    • making excuses for really really unprofessional behavior is also bad.These guys are representing their country, they need to act like professionals 100% of the time

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      • You hit ot right on the head….if it were one infraction, all may have been forgiven, but twice in the span of a few minths shows a pattern of behavior, immature behavior at that, so.my question is how do you fully trust a player that can’t follow rules and clearly likes to makr it about him and not the team? Excusing this as somehow Greg wanting to take the pressure off of himself or that he came down too hard is the problem with this generation, if you dont want to follow team rules dont come into camp, its really that simple

    • “These aren’t children.” But McKennie has been behaving like one. BTW, I managed adults and they need to follow the rules, too, and failure should result in discipline.

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      • Kick him off the team permanently then. That doesn’t change the fact that spending all this energy on Weston is obfuscating the fact that this team is messed up, clueless and without a plan.

        Weston breaking team rules isn’t why this team has two points from two games and looks lifeless.

  22. Nothing I see here changes my mind. If we were playing friendlies, then maybe you can be a bit more lenient. But, next to playing in the World Cup, there are the most important games a national team player plays. If he can’t follow team rules, he shouldn’t be on the team.

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    • A lot of people are making this out like Weston represents all the irresponsible behavior that is preventing the world from moving past this pandemic.

      He’s not.

      He’s just a stupid player who broke team rules and needs to pay for that.

      Is missing one very important game where he could have made a difference and instead, let people down, not enough punishment? Weston and Christian are supposed to be close. CP may miss a World Cup because of Weston. That’s not enough punishment?

      I don’t know. That’s not my job.

      What I do know is that this manager does not represent society and the fight against the pandemic. Him disciplining Weston does not make him a hero.

      He has one job, to get the USMNT to Qatar. My guess is that whatever he is doing with Weston, it’s to help make that happen.

      If it doesn’t then it’s a mistake. You break the rules, and you pay. Everyone on the team gets that. A unified team makes for better performance, or so they say.

      But if they keep such an important player out too long then everyone else pays too, including the manager. It’s a balance.

      For example, Matt Turner understands that discipline is important. But he wants to get to Qatar, like they all do. And the longer
      Weston is out, the harder it is to get to Qatar. At first Matt will blame Wes. But if it gets too long and if they can’t make up for Weston’s absence then they will blame the manager, as they should.

      When it comes to dealing with athletes I default to Bill Parcells:

      “He had 53 players on his rosters and he treated all 53 differently. It was not a democracy.
      “I never believed in treating everyone the same,” Parcells said.
      “I don’t believe in consistency as it relates to handling players. I believe in being right for each guy. I tried to do my best to understand what a particular player needed to be pushed to do his best. I felt an obligatory responsibility to give the players what they needed for the best chance to win.”

      It’s very simple, if they can make up for Weston then they will take their time getting him back.

      If they can’t then he’ll be back quick enough, if he is in form.

      Even this manager isn’t so stupid as to ignore that reality.

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