WESTON. MCKENNIE.May 27, 2020
The defensive midfielder has been a bright spot during a miserable spell for a Schalke team coached by David Wagner, who played for the U.S. national team -- for which he was eligible thanks to his American stepfather -- in 1996-98. McKennie has scored Schalke's only two goals in its last seven games. In Schalke's last Bundesliga game before the COVID interruption, he struck in a 1-1 tie with Hoffenheim.
Schalke has since lost to Borussia Dortmund, 4-0, and FC Augsburg, 3-0. On Wednesday, McKennie's header gave Schalke a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute but relegation-zone Fortuna equalized in 63rd minute and got the gamewinner in the 68th minute. The loss dropped Schalke to ninth place
McKennie, who was sidelined for nine games because of injuries, has started in 20 Bundesliga games this season. He made his Bundesliga debut in May of 2017 after joining Schalke upon his 18th birthday in August of 2016 -- having turned down an MLS Homegrown contract from FC Dallas, which he joined at age 11.
Schalke reached third place in late November -- and then went south. Pre-COVID results after winter break included 5-0 losses to Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig. Even more painful were subsequent the losses to teams in the lower half of the standings -- FC Cologne, Augsburg and third-to-last Duesseldorf, which dominated possession. (McKennie led Schalke with two of its five shots.)
Wagner signed a three-year contract with Schalke, with which he spent two seasons of his playing career, last May. He had guided Huddersfield to English Premier League promotion in 2017, kept it up for one season, but Huddersfield was headed toward relegation when he got the sack in January of 2019.
Wagner got the dreaded vote of confidence after the loss to Duesseldorf from Schalke general manager Jochen Schneider:
"We cannot present ourselves as we have in the last three games. It's not right to put it all on the coach. It's on all of us at the club. The criticism is for us all. We have to do better. The requirement is a better effort on Saturday."
On Saturday, Schalke faces 17th-place Werder Bremen, whose 20-year-old Josh Sargent has scored three goals this season.