USMNT has refrained from direct play in games against El Salvador, Canada

MINNEAPOLIS — Weston McKennie, midfielder for the United States men’s national team from Juventus and Weston McKennie, said the United States needs to make better use of its transition opportunities when they play Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

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The USA have struggled for goals against both El Salvador and Canada, with Antonee Robinson’s record against Cusca telcos the only goal scored by the United States in the two games. Against Canada in particular, the US seemed oddly reluctant to up the pace in the transition period. That’s an area where McKennie believes the team can improve.

“We are a young team. We are a team that can walk. We’re a team that likes to squeeze,” McKennie said during a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. “We are a team that is most effective and creates many of our chances from winning the ball, pressure and direct shots on goal. I think we’ve been holding back on that for the last two games and not using it to its fullest ability I think. To be effective in the last third and to get the goals and chances that we get if it’s once or twice a game, I think it’s very important to be effective.

McKennie was also asked about his two-game suspension in September for violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols. He expressed regret for his behavior, which ESPN reported at the time consisted of bringing an unauthorized person into the team’s bubble and spending a night outside of the team’s bubble.

“I think it was obviously just a lesson,” he said. “I think when I came back it was just important for me to put my head down and work. Juventus definitely helped me a lot with that. I struggled a bit, lost some of my confidence and like I said, it was a me felt like I was letting my team down and letting my country down, my family and myself. Whenever I was called back it was just trying to rebuild relationships and trust with everyone and just to show and to show that I’m there for the team and then I’m there to try and win. And so I think the best thing you can do as a person is be available. So I think my biggest thing was just to be available and not have a situation like that again.”

The US team’s problems in attack aren’t limited to how they handle transitions. Christian Pulisic’s game came under scrutiny as the Chelsea attacker fell well short of his best.

“We all had our ups and downs. We’ve all had difficult times,” McKennie said. “The most important thing is that we’re there for each other and given the situation he’s in maybe the amount of playing time will help him get back on his feet and then build his confidence. But I think, in general, he’s still an important character because he’s one of those types of players who might have a spark in one game… he might not do the whole game and then have a spark. He’s one of those players who are very unpredictable opponents. And I think he’s just someone who adds another kind of dangerous one-on-one ability in the final third.

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