Weston McKennie is one of the most talented American soccer players in the game and a member of Team Six Star.
Born in Little Elm, Texas, the 23-year-old midfielder currently plays for the U.S. Men’s National Team, as well as for one of the top soccer clubs in Europe. McKennie is known for his athleticism, defensive skills, versatility, and intensity. A gifted and passionate leader, as well, he wore the captain’s armband for his national team at only 20-years-old.
As a teenager, McKennie made his professional debut playing for a German soccer club in 2017. Later that same year, he scored a goal in his senior international debut while playing for his country. Then in 2019, McKennie scored the fastest hat-trick in U.S. Men’s National Team history. And in 2020, he was named Male Player of the Year by U.S. Soccer. He is also an Italian Cup Winner, Italian Super Cup Winner, and a CONCACAF Nations League Winner. When he trains, he uses only “The Athlete’s Choice” for protein shakes and pre-workouts.
McKennie recently took time out of his busy training schedule to chat with SixStarPro.Com about his advice for young players, the challenges of World Cup qualifying and how his doubters fuel him.
Q: What advice would you give to a 12 or 13-year-old who aspires to one day play for the national team or play in Europe? What would you tell them about your own experience that they can take away and use on their own journey?
A: “What I would tell anyone who is aspiring to not only play for the national team, but who is aspiring to make it in life, is don’t listen to everyone. There are a lot of people who will doubt you. There are a lot of people who won’t believe in you. There are a lot of people who may say that they do, but secretly, behind your back, don’t want you to make it. I’ve experienced all of those things and yet here I am today.
I’m not saying that I’ve made it. But I’ve definitely gotten many steps closer to accomplishing what I want to accomplish. And that could have only been done with my desire, with my hunger, and with my self-belief. For me, the biggest thing that I need in my game in order to have a good game is my self-belief. It’s confidence in what I do.
And it’s having people around you who will push you and who won’t let you slack off. It’s having people who will be honest with you and give you constructive criticism. Those are the type of people that you need to keep around. Those are the people that you need to keep close by and listen to. And they’re not always going to be right.
I think the best advice that I can give you is to just be confident in what you do because you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are. Be your own biggest self-critic, and be awesome.”
Q: How much do your doubters fuel you?
A: “It fuels me more than people may know. Many people may think that they can leave a comment on social media knowing that I’ll see it. Many people think that they can bring me down on social media. They think they can bring me down in the stadiums. But they don’t know that that’s only making me better. They don’t know that that’s making me hungrier. That it’s giving me more desire and giving me more power and more fuel to just succeed in every way that I can.
And I’ve recently gone through it. I’ve made a mistake and I was almost written off. I’ve had many nasty things said to me. I’ve also been racially abused just from the things that have happened. And many people think that that’s going to be my downfall. But it’s not.
Since then, I’ve been headstrong. Since then, I’ve been disciplined. Since then, I’ve had this hunger, this desire, and this chip on my shoulder that for a while went away, but that came straight back. And that made me only want to succeed so much more to prove them wrong, and also to prove myself right. I’m not what they say I am.”
Q: Wes, what are your go-to supplements and what’s your supplement routine? What are you taking before a workout and what are you taking after a workout?
A: “I’m not a big breakfast person, so, I take a quick Six Star protein shake. It’s easy, simple, and Six Star’s flavors are some of the best out there. And that’s how I start my day.
When I get to the training ground, we have a bit of a moment in between when we get there and start to train. I’m not someone who takes supplements just to take them. It has to be like, “This time. Or this time. And if it’s this time, it’s too close to take them together.”
So, we have about two hours and thirty minutes before I leave my house and we actually train. So, being able to take the protein shake whenever I wake up, and being able to take a pre-workout right before I go out to train, it works out perfectly. So, that’s kind of how I do my daily schedule as far as being prepared for training.”
Q: If the national team goes on a run next November, next December, the team has the ability to unite a fractured nation around one cause. Have you thought about that or do you get so caught up in the day-to-day aspect of just trying to get to that point?
A: “It’s always good to picture and visualize what can be because that shows you in your day-to-day what you’re working towards. A lot of people say, Don’t think ahead! Think only in the moment. But at the same time, we all do that.
At some point, we all dream of being something. We all think ahead of what we can be when we’re older. Whenever you start your journey, you’re working towards that. Everything that you do in your day-to-day life is influencing your path. It’s showing you which way, which doors are open and the ways that you can go. For me, it’s amazing to know that we could do what people don’t think we can. We can do the unexpected. But, of course, I also realize and know that I can’t completely focus on that without focusing on my day-to-day work. And being healthy, being available, and winning games to get us there.
All of us, we know what we want to work towards, and especially me, I know what I want to get to and I know my goal. But at the same time, I know that the only way that I’m going to get there is how I perform and how I prepare myself on a day-to-day basis.”
Q: When it comes to the qualifying process, there’s this perception that the United States has 330 million people and the best athletes and the best sports facilities in the world. But it looks hard, especially going on the road and wearing that jersey. It seems like a very, very different experience than you would get on a weekend in Europe. So, what type of challenge is that?
A: “It’s definitely a big challenge playing in CONCACAF. When I saw the qualifiers the last time when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup, I was thinking, ‘Man, you lose to Trinidad and Tobago. You lose to these teams that we shouldn’t be losing to.’
But whenever you go down and actually experience it for yourself, I think that’s something that many fans will never understand. Yeah, we should win these games. But the circumstances in that moment, that time on that field and those 90 minutes, are almost in no one’s favor. The game can go in any which way and that’s the beautiful thing about soccer.
I went down and we played a game against El Salvador. And I’m thinking, ‘OK, it’s El Salvador. We should be able to win this game.’ And I was in shock. My first qualifying game, of course I’ve played Gold Cup and I’ve played Nations League and you play these teams also, but it was something that I haven’t experienced yet. The atmosphere – it’s hostile. You’re getting things thrown at you. It’s not something that I’m unfamiliar with, but whenever you have 40,000 fans from El Salvador and you maybe have 500 U.S. soccer fans, or maybe 100 even, up in the stands in the little small section, you really see that there’s no comfort zone at all where you’re at.
And the pitches may be terrible. The referees may be terrible. The balls may be terrible. But the one thing that I will say that we’ve been trying to do, which is something that we’ve kept as a motto in our national team is that: It just doesn’t matter.
It just doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, you’re going out and you’re playing this game that we all love. You’re playing against many circumstances and challenges. So, what if the ref is bad or the pitch is bad? It doesn’t matter. You just go out and play.”