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 playing for club and country, his training schedule and long-term goals.
Q: Playing for one of the world’s best clubs and a brand that’s revered in the country that you play in versus playing for the national team, what is that like? Are the pressures different? Do you feel more pressure playing for one team more than the other? How do you go about that?
A: “The pressure difference between my club and country as far as winning tournaments and winning trophies is different. At my club, we have four competitions that we play throughout the year and we’re expected, for sure, to win three of them, and at least make it to the semifinals in one, if not win the whole thing.
On the other hand, with my country, you have two competitions, three competitions maybe in total, and I think we’re expected to win two of them. I would say we are. The expectation that I have for my team and for myself, I say we’re expected to win two of them.
It’s not that I doubt us, or that I don’t believe in us, but I think we also still have a lot of room to grow. We’re such a young team and we have so much to learn. So, when it comes to the World Cup, we want to go as far as we can go. Are we expected to win it? No. We’re not expected to win it. Will people bet on us to win it? Probably not.
But that’s something, like I said, that we’ve all grown up with. It’s why we all have that chip on our shoulders. So, that will probably drive us to believe in the things that people don’t believe in, and to want to do the things that people say we can’t.
I think that’s really just the pressure difference. On one hand, you’re expected to win all the competitions. And on the other side, you’re expected to win some of them.”
Q: What does your typical day of training look like, Wes?
A: “We get to training. We have tests that we have to do. We have to do a bodyweight test. Sometimes we have to get our blood drawn just because they want to check our vitamin levels and our blood for Covid reasons now. As we all know, Covid has changed a lot of the professional soccer world.
After that, we have to go into the gym and do our activation before training. And that’s something that’s expected from all of us. It’s not mandatory, but it’s a discipline thing that each of us are expected to do. If you need physio, you have to do treatment.
Then after that, maybe a video session. And then we go out to train and prepare for the game on the weekend. After that, you come back in. You do your recovery. If you want, you can take an ice bath. You jump in the pool. You go back to the physio. You get a massage. You go into the cryo chamber. You go in the sauna. Or do whatever you want to do. That’s kind of how a day of training is right now.”
Q: How much time do you spend each day, for instance, lifting versus toning or doing cardio versus upper body workouts? For you to feel like you’re ready to go for a game, what do you feel that you need to do? What parts of your body do you feel you need to emphasize in order to be successful on the field?
A: “The body parts that I need to really look after, and that I really need to train and make sure that are always healthy, are my legs. For sure.
Whenever I go into the gym, I have to do posterior workouts. That means core workouts to really open up and have core control. Because if I have core control, then I don’t over exert my other muscles to make up for it. So, that’s what I have to do. I do that every day when I work out.
Like I said, that wasn’t something I was always good at because I could always get away with it because I was so young. But it’s something that I’ve realized that I won’t be able to continue to get away with without working on it.
My body is a temple. It’s like a car, as well. I need the fuel, I need the preparation, and I need the ability to last.”
Q: How do you manage your mind and body together then? When you feel like you’ve hit a limit mentally, how do you get yourself to keep going physically?
A: “For me, body and mind kind of work off of each other. But at the same time, it’s like a relationship. You know, when one person’s feeling down, and feels like they’re struggling, the other one has to make up for it. And vice versa.
When I feel tired, my mental game comes into play. I remind myself to “Keep pushing! Keep going! Keep running! This is bigger than just you. You’re playing for a team.”
And whenever I’m mentally tired, I’m normally still able to go physically. I’m able to just keep going. Then mentally, I’ll come back and it will all connect again. That’s how I’ve always thought about my mind and body relationship.”
Q: How have your goals changed since you’ve made this move to Italy? And with the World Cup less than a year away, how have your goals changed?
A: “My goals haven’t changed a lot. I think some of my goals have changed just because I’ve accomplished them and need to set new ones.
My goal since I’ve moved to Italy was to win the league here. That’s because winning the league is something that the club is known for, but I still haven’t done it. So, I want to win the league. I want to try and win a Champions League, as well. And I want to be a consistent player at a top club. Those are my goals.
My goals before were to make it to a top club and to win a trophy. And since I’ve moved to Italy, I’ve knocked out two birds with one stone. So, my goals have been changed in a way. But my all- in -all goal is to be the best that I can be. To be recognized as one of the top midfielders in the world. And that’s something that is a long-term goal. I know that it doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes work. It takes consistency. It takes good performances. And it takes preparation.”