Weston McKennie Dealt an Injury Blow in Bundesliga Action

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Weston McKennie Dealt an Injury Blow in Bundesliga Action

One of the most promising up-and-coming talents in the men’s US soccer team has sustained a nasty injury in action for his club in Germany. 21-year-old Weston McKennie, who has scored six goals in just 19 appearances for the national team, suffered a serious dislocated shoulder in a Bundesliga game for employers, Schalke 04 against Eintracht Frankfurt. The official MLS Soccer site stated he fell awkwardly in an aerial challenge with Bas Dost and came off worse, with Schalke’s head coach David Wagner admitting McKennie could be out until February or March at the earliest.

The news will be bitterly disappointing to McKennie, who has steadily worked his way through the ranks at Schalke to become a fan favourite. After making his first-team debut in September 2017, McKennie agreed a lucrative new five-year contract, cementing his long-term future with Die Konigsblauen. He then played 24 times for the senior Schalke side in 2018-19 and has a further 13 appearances to his name already this season, prior to this injury. McKennie will be hoping that the injury doesn’t stunt his progress at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, but if Schalke can inch their way into contention for the Champions League spots over the coming weeks, he could find it hard to demand a recall.

McKennie is already an important figure in the US senior setup

McKennie has certainly made a huge impression on the international stage as well as domestically in Germany. Having played for various age groups in the US national team, McKennie earned his first senior call-up at the tender age of 19, scoring on his debut against Portugal. Earlier this year, McKennie also made history by becoming the scorer of the fastest hat-trick in the history of the US national team, with three quick-fire goals in just 13 minutes against Cuba. MTN vs. Cuba: Highlights-October 11, 2019.

The youngster was actually one of three American starlets to be snapped up by Schalke back in 2017, with McKennie joining both Haji Wright and Nic Taitague in agreeing terms with the Gelsenkirchen club. According to an ESPN report on McKennie’s Bundesliga stardom, Schalke beat off competition from MLS club, FC Dallas, to get his signature. McKennie was desperate to get his career off the ground in Germany after spending some of his earlier years in the country with his father being based in the military in Kaiserslautern.

Turning down home comforts for a crack at the Bundesliga

Upon his return to America, McKennie was eventually offered a scholarship with the University of Virginia. His father was keen on him taking the scholarship, which would have given him a backup plan if his professional soccer plans didn’t come to fruition. However, he ignored his parents’ advice and opted to sign for Schalke and the rest is history. Although MLS commissioner, Don Garber admitted to Sports Illustrated that the league’s failure to entice McKennie to sign with FC Dallas “hurt”, there’s no doubt that McKennie’s improved footballing education in the Bundesliga will only benefit the US national team going forward. He has also chosen to avoid the so-called "slanted financial system" in America and opt for the big bucks of Europe.

Instead of plying his trade in the MLS, McKennie is rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in one of the highest-profile leagues, in terms of heritage, sponsorship money and betting revenues. Schalke are currently in fifth place with a seven-point gap separating them from RB Leipzig in first, but they aren't expected to challenge for the title as they can be back at odds of +10000 at leading betting site Betway, as of 10th January; however, they have a realistic chance of finishing in the top four so McKennie could experience Champions League football for a second time next season.

A quick look at the most recent squads for the US senior squad shows there are plenty of youngsters trying to establish themselves as mainstays in the team. Current US head coach, Gregg Berhalter clearly has one eye on the future given that only two players over the age of 30 were selected for their most recent Nations League A fixtures with Canada and Cuba respectively, namely keeper Brad Guzan and defender Tim Ream. There is youthful exuberance running throughout the spine of the team, with the likes of Jackson Yueill, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest looking like the basis of a young, dynamic XI for the years to come.

The US were as high as fourth in the FIFA World Rankings back in 2006 , but the end of that generation of players saw the team fall into the doldrums and as low as 36th. Thanks to the faith of Berhalter and the bravery of McKennie and co. to test themselves at the highest possible level, the US is well on the way to having a team to be proud of once more, just like the recent women's World Cup heroes. Regional qualifying begins in earnest soon for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is a chance for the US side to seek absolution for failing to qualify for 2018 and reach the tournament in Qatar, which promises to be a major sporting spectacle.

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