Schalke: Weston McKennie is the star man right now

Weston McKennie of FC Schalke 04 (Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Weston McKennie of FC Schalke 04 (Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

FC Schalke 04 have been forced to shift to a completely new system due to mounting injuries in midfield, and Weston McKennie has emerged as the new star in the Rückrunde.

Weston McKennie has been held in high regard by FC Schalke 04 fans since joining the Royal Blues in 2016 after a promising youth career with FC Dallas. The American center midfielder has always been a solid cog capable of playing at any position and filling any area of need, but, lately, he’s shown the ability to be a legitimate star player.

Schalke haven’t enjoyed an ideal Rückrunde, having fallen out of Champions League contention in recent weeks. They’ve struggled to score goals and have looked porous defensively, even allowing three goals to 1. FC Köln.

While Schalke didn’t pick up all three points against TSG Hoffenheim and struggled to close out another game, there were a few positives to take away from a game in which they finally showed their usual fight. And the biggest positive was McKennie.

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The 21-year-old scored the first goal of the match, all on his own. He secured a pass from Jonjoe Kenny with an expert first touch, took the defense on, and finished cooly.

McKennie showed a killer instinct on the ball and in front of goal that we’ve rarely seen from him, considering it was more than 500 days since his last Bundesliga goal prior to his opening strike vs. Hoffenheim.

Afterward, McKennie didn’t add to his tally, but he played a majestic game in midfield.

As usual, the box-to-box midfielder read the game perfectly positionally, making up for the loss of Omar Mascarell as the leader in the middle of the park defensively.

He also did everything he could to create chances for others, recording three key passes.

Lively and hard-working as ever, McKennie also drew two fouls.

With two tackles, four clearances, and an interception, McKennie was making an impact in a variety of ways defensively. He completed 86.8 percent of his passes, per, even sending in one accurate cross.

McKennie is as well-rounded as they come, and that’s always been the case. He’s become even more critical to the squad with Suat Serdar and Mascarell injured, and Amine Harit‘s lack of a place in the new formation has only increased the amount of duties hoisted upon McKennie. But instead of cracking under pressure or showing flaws amidst greater responsibilities in the starting XI, McKennie, who wasn’t a regular starter in the Hinrunde, has stepped up to another level.

Because of the injuries and Harit’s place on the bench, McKennie has become Schalke’s most important player. He needs to read the game like Mascarell, provide the dynamism of Serdar, and create chances like Harit. Against Hoffenheim, McKennie did a little bit of all three. If he continues his progression, he could be one of the revelations of the Rückrunde.

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Schalke’s struggles aren’t over, but they have shown signs of improvement. And going forward, Weston McKennie will be at the heart of their efforts to maintain their standing as a team headed for European football in 2020-2021.