Los Angeles (AFP) – Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie will return to the USA starting line-up for Sunday’s friendly against Uruguay as he continues his comeback from injury, head coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed on Saturday.
McKennie came on as a second-half substitute in Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Morocco but has not started a game for club or country since suffering a fractured metatarsal in February.
Berhalter said Saturday McKennie would play a maximum of 45 minutes against the South Americans in Sunday’s game in Kansas City.
“He’s at a point now, where I think he can start the game again, limiting his minutes to 45, and going from there,” Berhalter told reporters on a video call.
“Really anxious to see how he can do and I’m a little bit cautious. In the back of your mind there is that little bit of concern but you know it’s going to be a competitive game, and there’s no one you’d rather have out there than Weston,” Berhalter added.
McKennie had a mixed record during the USA’s World Cup qualification campaign, and was sent home from the squad in disgrace in September after breaching Covid-19 protocols.
However the skilful 23-year-old, who has been linked with a move to Premier League side Tottenham, is expected to be an integral part of Berhalter’s team for the World Cup finals in Qatar, where the USA face England, Iran and either Ukraine or Wales in the first round.
Sunday’s game against Uruguay is another opportunity for Berhalter to see how his team measures up against World Cup-calibre opponents.
Freed from the stifling pressure of qualification, the US produced one of their best performances in recent memory in Wednesday’s win over Morocco, and Berhalter wants more of the same on Sunday.
“There’s something to be said for having to battle through the intensity of local qualifiers, it’s a desperation type of feel by the opponent, by the circumstances,” Berhalter said.
“This is what builds your character as a group. And you know it’s gonna ramp up again in terms of that type of pressure.
“It’s still about the pressure we put on ourselves. There was a lot of talk before Wednesday’s game about us wanting to set our standard against World Cup opponents, and it’s going to be the same type of theme for tomorrow’s game.”
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