Here’s Why Weston McKennie Was Named U.S. Soccer Male Player Of The Year (And Not Christian Pulisic)

Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie is your U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year, the USSF announced on Friday. The 22-year-old edged out last year’s winner Christian Pulisic to become the fourth-youngest recipient. The 2020 USMNT Player of the Year award comes at a time when more Americans are excelling at top European clubs, but McKennie was the perfect choice this year.

While 2020 was pretty awful for most humans on planet Earth, it was actually pretty good for Americans playing soccer in Europe. Weston McKennie excelled with Schalke and earned a loan move to Italian giant Juventus, Christian Pulisic broke out with Chelsea with an incredible summer, Gio Reyna debuted at Borussia Dortmund and is nearly impossible to keep out of the BVB lineup, Sergiño Dest seems to be Barcelona’s best player right now and Tyler Adams scored the goal that sent RB Leipzig to the semifinals of the Champions League. 

Yet it was McKennie who dominated the voting, garnering 44 percent of the vote. Pulisic came in second with 27 percent, followed by Dest with 14. (Adams, Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris were also among the six players nominated; Reyna is in the running for best young player.) McKennie became the second Texan to win the award after three-time recipient Clint Dempsey (2007, 2011, 2012) and the second Italy-based player after Alexi Lalas (1995).

So what set McKennie apart in 2020? You can start with his play on the pitch, but it continues off the field as well. 

In all, McKennie made 29 appearances at the club level for Schalke and Juventus, providing four goals and two assists. Those numbers might not seem that impressive compared to, say, Pulisic, but keep in mind that after McKennie helped save Schalke from relegation. He left the club over the summer and Schalke has been in a free fall ever since, still yet to win a Bundesliga match this season.

At Juventus, McKennie has quickly become a regular for Andrea Pirlo. In his last four matches, McKennie has notched two goals and an assist — and if we’re being honest it should’ve been two assists. His incredible flying side volley against Barcelona may be one of the best goals an American has ever scored in a battle of European elites. 

It feels like just yesterday that McKennie scored in his USMNT debut against Portugal.

But just as important as McKennie’s abilities on the pitch this year have been his stances off the pitch. 

In a year when the U.S. faced a racial reckoning after the slaying of George Floyd by police, McKennie was one of the most outspoken American soccer players standing up for social justice. 

Back in May, when the Bundesliga was one of just a few leagues back playing, McKennie wore a “Justice for George” armband, becoming one of the first athletes in the world to make such a statement.

McKennie didn’t stop there. He made an emotional video with adidas speaking at length about standing for equality in the face of racist abuse he’s been subjected to as a Black man. 

In a year when humanity has faced such hardships, from a raging pandemic to raging racism, McKennie, a humble, inspiring young man, is the perfect recipient of the 2020 USMNT Player of the Year award. 

U.S. Soccer will announce the 2020 USWNT Player of the Year on Saturday, followed by the Young Player awards next week.

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