NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie did not dress for Sunday night's World Cup qualifier against Canada after violating team COVID-19 rules.
McKennie, who plays for Juventus, had started Thursday night's opening 0-0 draw at El Salvador and is among the top American players.
“Unfortunately, I am suspended for tonight's match due to a violation of team COVID-19 protocols,” McKennie said in a statement he posted on Instagram before the Americans plays a 1-1 tie. “I am sorry for my actions. I will be cheering hard for the boys tonight and hope to be back with the team soon.”
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter would only say McKennie violated a team policy and declined to go into specifics.
Asked whether McKennie will be back for Wednesday's game at Honduras, Berhalter said: “That remains to be seen.”
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.
“Obviously it’s not an ideal situation because he’s such an important player, important character to this team,” fellow midfielder Tyler Adams said. “He brings obviously what he does on the field, but even off the field, how close he brings the team together. So, yeah, it’s a little disappointing, but it was that-next-man up mentality.”
McKennie was dropped for Juventus' derby at Torino on April 3 by coach Andrea Pirlo. McKennie and teammates Paulo Dybala and Arthur did not dress, and Italian media reported the reason was a party at McKennie's residence in Turin that violated Italian COVID-19 restrictions.
Adams said the rest of the team was told about the situtation in a team meeting Sunday.
“To be fair, it hurts us,” Adams said. “But I don’t think it affected the team too, too much. We were ready to come out and compete.”
Sebastian Lletget replaced McKennie in the U.S. lineup.
“We tried not to let that whole situation affect us too much,” U.S. star Christian Pulisic said. “Obviously it's just about putting all that aside and focusing on the task at hand, really. And obviously, we missed him today, and it’s just about moving forward and trying to win games."
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