McKennie on COVID violation: ‘let my team ... country down’

February 1, 2022 GMT
Canada's Ike Ugbo, right, and United States' Weston McKennie (8) battle for the ball during the second half of a World Cup soccer qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canada's Ike Ugbo, right, and United States' Weston McKennie (8) battle for the ball during the second half of a World Cup soccer qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canada's Ike Ugbo, right, and United States' Weston McKennie (8) battle for the ball during the second half of a World Cup soccer qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Canada's Ike Ugbo, right, and United States' Weston McKennie (8) battle for the ball during the second half of a World Cup soccer qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Canada's Ike Ugbo, right, and United States' Weston McKennie (8) battle for the ball during the second half of a World Cup soccer qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Weston McKennie said he let his team and nation down when he violated team COVID-19-rules in September, which caused the American midfielder to miss a pair of World Cup qualifiers.

McKennie didn’t dress for the Sept. 5 match against Canada because of the breach, and coach Gregg Berhalter sent him home before the game at Honduras three days later.

McKennie spoke with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since the incident.

“I think it was just a learning lesson, obviously,” the 23-year-old Juventus midfielder said during a Zoom news conference. ”I felt like I let my team down, let my country down and my family and myself.”

McKennie has been among the top U.S. players in World Cup qualifying going into Wednesday’s match against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“I struggled for a bit. I lost all my confidence,” he said.

McKennie has played the entirety of five of the last seven qualifiers, missing the 1-1 draw at Jamaica because of a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation and being rested for the 1-0 loss at Panama as Berhalter rotated his squad for the middle match of three in a seven-day span.

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He scored the second goal in November’s 2-0 win over Mexico.

“I think as I went back, it was just important for me to put my head down and work,” McKennie said. “so whenever I got called back in it was just to try and rebuild the relationships and the trust with everyone and just perform and show that I’m there for the team, that I’m there to try to win. And so I think the best thing as a person to do is be available also. I think that was my biggest thing, is just to be available and not have a situation like that again.”

A 23-year-old from Fort Lewis, Washington, McKennie left the player development academy of Major League Soccer’s Dallas team to sign with Germany’s Schalke in 2016. He made his professional debut with Schalke in May 2017, played three full seasons for the club and was loaned to Juventus for 2020-21. The Italian club bought his contract the following March.

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