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 the role models, playing as an American in Europe and looking ahead to a busy 2022.
Q: Who were your role models growing up?
A: “To be completely honest, I wouldn’t really say I had many role models growing up. Obviously, I had people that I looked up to and respected. People who I always tried to look at and see how they treated people, how they went about their business, or how they did what they did in their profession.
You know, my dad, my mom, my brother, and my sister all helped me so much just in raising me. My brother, dad, mom, and sister all played sports, but, I mean, I never saw my dad play. I never saw my mom play. I was able to watch my brother play, but I never saw my sister play. So, I didn’t have any sports role models, but I did have role models in life.”
Q: What is it like being an American playing European soccer? What has the experience of playing in one of the best leagues in the world been like for you?
A: “Being an American playing in Europe definitely has its pros and cons. You know, not many people like to be different, and many people want to fit in. But I’m the complete opposite. I like to stand out. I like to be different from everyone else. I go to training dressed in some weird clothes and people just look at me like, “Huh?” And I’m like, “This is just the American way! Sometimes we throw things on and just go with it.”
Sometimes the way that I eat, the combinations of food that I put together, they look at me like, “What?” (Laughing) It’s just general things. It’s fun for me to be in Europe because it’s not very common for Americans, especially during the pandemic, and especially as an American soccer player. And for me, being different is a blessing and being different is also a benefit in a way.”
Q: 2022 is almost here. Have you thought about just the year in general? Like, what’s in front of you and what there is to look forward to in 2022? Obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on you and your teammates. Are you looking forward to that challenge and just what the year ahead brings?
A: “Yeah, I definitely am looking forward to the challenge. I think 2022 is going to be a big year. It’s going to be a year where many succeed and it’s going to be a year where many are tested. Either way, I feel like I’ll be prepared for it. And I think my teammates and I are ready for the challenge. It’s something that we’ve been working towards since 2018, since we started the new cycle with the national team.
We’ve gone through many challenges to get to where we’re at, but the test isn’t over. We still have to qualify with the national team, but I think it’s something that we know we can do and something that we’re capable of doing. We’re definitely looking forward to it.”
Q: What should people who have never seen you play, or even casual Americans who are going to be paying more attention over the next few months, what should they know about you and what should they know about your game?
A: “For someone who doesn’t know me and who may just tune in for this whole World Cup process, or who are just watching overseas — I’m a goofball on and off the field sometimes. But I have my moments when I choose to be that on the field. I’m someone that if you meet me outside of the soccer field, you would never think I am the player that I am on the field.
On the field, I’m a pit bull. I love to run. I love to get into tackles. I love to go up and down the field with a ton of energy. I wasn’t always like that, but when I came to Europe I realized that could be one thing that I could drive, and something that I could be better at than everyone else.
So, if you don’t know who I am, you can expect funny videos and funny moments off the field. On the field, you’ll see a whole alter ego. You’ll see someone who doesn’t take any crap from anyone.”
Q: How are you able to maintain that balance and be able to successfully turn it on and turn it off? How are you able to manage the two without crossing the line?
A: “I think the ability for me to switch on and switch off between those personalities on and off the field goes back to me being in a military family (LINK TO Q&A 2). It’s discipline. You know when it’s time to work and you know when it’s time to relax, joke around, and not be so serious.
But at the same time, those moments when I am joking around on the field, it’s because at the end of the day we do it because we love it. We do it because we have fun doing it. And the moment that you take the fun out of it, the question is then: What are you really doing it for?
So, I find passion in that – being able to be myself and to express my many personalities on and off the field, and still be taken seriously and be respected, as well.”