Weston McKennie: I’m not losing sleep over it

In his first professional season, Weston McKennie made 25 first team appearances. In an interview with schalke04.de, the US international discussed his aims for the coming season, his battle for a place in the starting XI and the dream of scoring his first Schalke goal.

Weston, a year ago, did you ever think you’d play so frequently?
I didn’t have a specific goal in terms of number of appearances. My aim was simply to improve, learn and work hard every day. The coaching staff, the leadership, in fact the whole club has put their trust in me. I am hugely grateful that I was given the chance to play 25 games.

What was your highlight from last season?
There were several. For us as a team the miraculous 4-4 result in the first derby was a moment we’ll never forget. The game didn’t actually go well for me, personally. I got an early yellow and was subbed off with the score at 4-0. I was absolutely delighted at the end, however, that we managed to turn the game around. The return leg was also something special: to win 2-0 in the derby in front of our own fans was brilliant. I’m proud to be a part of this team and proud that we managed to finish as runners-up in the league.

With Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer, the club has lost two players in your position. Omar Mascarell and Suat Serdar have been brought in as replacements. So the competition for starting XI places remains exciting. How do you rate your chances of starting the first game of the season?
Genuinely, I’m approaching it exactly as I did last season and not losing sleep over it. I will keep working hard and keep giving my all in training. At the end of the day, the coach decides who plays. We have to respect his decisions. But no doubt about it, I want to be playing as often as possible.

You’re one of the biggest jokesters in the team. We can’t even imagine what you’ve got lined up for your first Bundesliga goal. Have you already got a celebration in mind?
If I were to score, I’d think of something. The goal’s more important than the celebration, though (laughs). I need to focus on that part first. A goal for Schalke would be a dream.

Has your footballing success received a lot of attention back home in the USA? Can you still walk down the street without getting recognized?
Football doesn’t have such a huge following in the USA as in does in Germany. So, I don’t always get recognized when I’m out and about. But I don’t really mind that. When I’m on call with the national team, however, it’s a different story.

After missing out on the World Cup finals, the US national team are rebuilding their squad with young players. Your first outings were very promising. A 1-1 draw with eventual World Champions France was needless to say a highlight.
I am absolutely convinced that we will make it in 2022. We’re a hungry bunch, who get on very well with one another. Many of our players are at big clubs and are getting some great experience. Playing in the Champions League will certainly help me develop even further as a player and as an individual.

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