It sure didn’t take long for Weston McKennie to establish himself in Juventus’s starting lineup.
The 22-year-old American, who joined the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Italian titans on loan last month after four years with German club Schalke, started the club’s Serie A opener on Sunday, helping his new team to a 3-0 win against Sampdoria.
Ronaldo capped the scoring with a goal in the 88th minute:
For McKennie, it was a near-perfect debut. While the versatile Texan spent time at right back and even in central defense last season in the Bundesliga, he was deployed in his natural central midfield spot, directly behind Portuguese superstar Ronaldo in new manager Andrea Pirlo’s 5-4-1 formation.
He made his dogged defensive presence felt early on; one crunching slide tackle sprung a quick counterattack that ended with Ronaldo firing just over Emil Audero’s net. Later in the first half, McKennie took an off-target shot of his own following a powerful turn at the top of the box.
Not long after, Juve opened the scoring on a clever first-time strike by 20-year-old Swedish forward Dejan Kulusevski, who was also making his first official appearance for the club after arriving from Parma this summer:
McKennie nearly scored, too. Late in the second half, he forced a classy save from Audero before Leonardo Bonucci converted the rebound to double Juve’s advantage. Another effort minutes later was kept out spectacularly by Audero, who just managed to clear the ball before it crossed the goal line following the U.S. national teamer’s initial shot.
But then the hard-running McKennie was recruited not for his attacking ability but to fill the box-to-box midfield role vacated by veteran Blaise Matuidi, who left Juve earlier this summer to join MLS expansion side Miami. Based on his first impression in Turin, McKennie appears to be a worthy replacement for the French World Cup winner.
Juventus is aiming for its unprecedented 10th consecutive Italian title this term, but its main ambition is to win the Champions League for the first time since 1996.
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