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USMNT trusts Weston McKennie to play key leadership role for young roster

Reggie Cannon praises McKennie for always supporting his teammates on the pitch

DAVENPORT, Fla. — Reggie Cannon admits there’s some pressure on the U.S. men’s national team to perform to certain standard, especially after its most recent loss.  

The United States fell 2-0 to Canada last month at BMO Field, the Canadians’ first victory over the Americans in 34 years.

The U.S. opened training camp in the Orlando area Monday ahead of a key rematch with Canada knowing they will be without a key team leader. Christian Pulisic has been sidelined for the match due to injury.

Cannon is confident longtime friend Weston McKennie is bold enough to step in and help lead the U.S. when it faces the Canadians at 7 p.m. Friday at Exploria Stadium to conclude Nations League Tournament group play.

“I always feel like he’s someone who will always have my back no matter the situation,” Cannon said of McKennie before Monday’s training session.

Cannon added the entire roster ultimately must share responsibility for delivering a strong showing against Canada.

“I feel like that has to be all 11 on the field, all 23, it has to be everyone,” he said. “That’s something we’re working on right now, but this team is going to be ready to respond.”

Cannon and McKennie were a part of FC Dallas’ development academy at one point before McKennie left to join Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in 2016.

After starting and playing the entire game of last Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Schalke, McKennie is expected to report to national team camp with the United States on Tuesday.

Cannon, 21, said McKennie is someone teammates can always rely on, which will help the relatively young U.S. squad.  

“I know him the best,” said Cannon, who said he essentially grew up with McKennie. “But it’s someone who always has your back. If you lose the ball, you know he’s going to be the first one running [to get] the ball. He’s a leader and that’s something I can learn from — everyone can learn from to up their game.”

United States coach Gregg Berhalter called McKennie is a strong leader and versatile player.

“Weston is just a unique individual,” Berhalter said. “I don’t know if you saw the game [last] weekend, but he played centerback. To imagine coaching the Bundesliga level and saying, ‘No problem [playing] centerback in a back four.’ I know he’s done it before in a back five, [but] it just shows how versatile he is and how much he means to a team.”

The Americans could get a spark that has been lacking at times from their play from McKennie, who is known for never giving up on the pitch.

“He’s a competitor, he’s a guy that isn’t going to be perfect but he makes up for it with effort and competing,” Berhalter said. “[He’s] a great person and a very talented soccer player.” 




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