Living here in the United States, there’s been plenty of talk about how important these first three CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers were for the United States men’s national team. And, knowing how the USMNT is constructed, Weston McKennie is certainly a big part of their success.
Unfortunately for McKennie, he wasn’t part of the United States’ last game and he won’t be a part of the next one coming up on Tuesday night.
McKennie was not only suspended for the United States’ 1-1 draw with Canada over the weekend, he was told to head back to Italy a little earlier than expected due to breaking COVID-19 protocols. Just to what extent those protocol breaches are remain rather unknown and there’s a decent amount of speculation happening as to why U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter decided to send McKennie back to Juventus before his team’s final World Cup qualifier, but the fact remains that what the 23-year-old midfielder did was serious enough to have him return to Italy days ahead of when he was originally scheduled to.
News regarding updates to the USMNT roster ahead of Wednesday's World Cup Qualifier in Honduras.— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) September 6, 2021
The catch in all of this is that it’s not the first time in the 2021 calendar year that McKennie has been suspended for breaking COVID-19 protocol. In that first case, it was because he hosted a party along with Paulo Dybala and Arthur that surpassed the maximum capacity for group meetups as cases were starting to come down during Italy’s springtime virus surge in April. McKennie, Dybala and Arthur were all suspended by Juventus for a game — which just so happened to be the Derby della Mole against Torino.
Berhalter said the following in a statement released Monday:
“Weston will return to Italy and will be unavailable for the match against Honduras due to a violation of team policy. There are high expectations for those who are a part of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and in order to be successful it’s important that everyone in the group is accountable.”
Juventus have yet to comment on McKennie’s suspension and if he will receive any further punishment upon his return to Turin. (UPDATE: Juventus provided a short recap of the team’s return to training on Tuesday, in which McKennie was a part of the group.
McKennie’s suspension and subsequent early return to Italy has spurned a new round of transfer rumors for a player who was rumored to potentially be leaving at the end of the summer transfer window. Just how much standing they have, especially during an international break where there’s not a lot of Juventus things happening, remain to be seen. But with another off-field incident, it’s definitely not a good development for a player who is not so far removed from a very similar kind of issue.