Josh Sippie helps us take a closer look at Schalke’s latest sensation- Weston McKennie.
FC Schalke is the birthplace of too many world class talents to name. Nearly every major club out there has some sort of Schalke representation. It all stems from a fantastic academy that not only churns out their own homegrown players, but also boasts of a superb scouting network that is magnificent at identifying teenage talents from around the world. The trouble for them is holding onto those players, which has proven to be more difficult for them than seemingly any other team.
One place you wouldn’t necessarily expect Schalke to start turning out teenage sensations is the United States of America. But that is where they are starting to establish a solid base of operations, as well as a good-sized following.
And that is where the man of this article, Weston McKennie, hails from. The American teenage sensation that is Schalke’s answer to their dear rival Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic.
Who is Weston McKennie?
Weston McKennie was born in Little Elm, Texas 28 August 1998. While the young American grew up in Texas and started playing football there. He went to Kaiserslautern, Germany at the age of six and ended up playing for local club FC Phonix Otterbach until he was nine, at which point he moved back to the United States and joined the FC Dallas academy in 2009.
After refusing a homegrown player contract with FC Dallas on having spent seven years there, McKennie moved to Germany for good in 2016, joining FC Schalke where his international mate Haji Wright was already residing.
After showcasing strongly with the Royal Blues in his inaugural year, Schalke wasted no time locking down McKennie to a five-year deal in an attempt to avoid any more inconvenient Bosmans from ruining their future hopes.
McKennie was overjoyed at the deal, saying “It was an easy decision for me to make. I love the club and everything here: my teammates, the head coach and the fans. I’d love to stay here forever.”
Internationally, McKennie has represented the United States of America at the U17, U19 and U20 levels, scoring two goals across 17 appearances.
What is his Style of Play?
Weston McKennie is your typical “what can’t he do?” midfielder, which is what makes it so convenient that his massive contract comes on the back of Leon Goretzka’s impending exit. They are players of the same type. You look at their abilities and it’s easy to see what makes them so valuable. If you want them to play in a No. 6 role, he has the size, ability and determination to do so. If you want him in the No. 8, he has the endurance, athleticism and drive to do so. Want to get ambitious and play him as a No. 10? Not a problem, he has the calculating mentality and the intelligent passing required.
McKennie has primarily been used in the deeper midfield role, and that’s where he figures to be most often, given his strength and ability to win the ball back. But once he has the ball, that’s when he truly comes to life.
As a pivot, his ability to drive the ball forward from deep positions is a trait that is augmented fantastically by his cool composure on the ball. For a deep-lying midfielder, he has that winger move where he coolly taps the ball around the approaching defender and uses his speed to win the race to the ball.
He’s a ball winner and a ball retainer, a creator and a control tower, a pivot and a general. And he’s only 19.
What are his Strengths?
Trying to pinpoint McKennie’s primary strength is like trying to identify the corner of a circle. He’s such a well-rounded, balanced player. That, in itself, could be seen as his biggest strengths, but I won’t cop out. His primary attribute, by the necessity of picking one, has to go to his calm, calculated state when he has the ball.
There is a certain brilliance to be found in a player that can take the ball amidst fellow and opposing players moving in all directions and seemingly slow play down without missing anything. Especially such a young player. There is not a shred panic to be found in this lad.
And it’s not like he’s slowing it down and missing opportunities. He is slowing play down simply to properly assess all of the choices. If a snap decision is required he is more than capable of making it. He has a highly intelligent footballing head on his shoulders.
The next strength to pinpoint is his drive. This goes hand-in-hand with that calculating mind, but McKennie truly shines when he starts pushing play forward. He has a multitude of weapons with which to do so, as he can lob ball across the pitch, slide them through tight passing lanes or, if nothing else presents itself, push straight at the heart of the defense.
Strength would be his final, well, strength. McKennie is just 19 but already understands quite well how to wield his body to both win back the ball and maintain hold of it once he has it. He bosses in the air as well thanks to this. It’s a trait that will only get better the older that he gets. He is just as comfortable parked in front of his own 18-yard box, helping out with the defense, as he is with the ball at his feet, driving through the opposing formation.
What are his Weaknesses?
The only real weakness of Weston McKennie is that he isn’t a goal-scorer as of yet. He hasn’t shown much inclination to shoot from distance as midfielders in a similar position often do. Instead, he is far more intent on creating for his team mates.
That said, he is such an aerial threat that he will inevitably score goals with his head from set pieces, but for the sake of anointing a weakness, not having a long shot yet in his arsenal is the only drawback. But that’s not to say he can’t develop one.
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- K-League U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Season 2017: Talent Radar - October 23, 2017