Weston McKennie’s Long Throws Can’t Be Legal, Can They?

I’ve been watching a lot of Juventus matches lately. With Weston McKennie in fine goal-scoring form, it’s hard not to watch my fellow Texan do things no American has done before while converting soaring headers and powerful strikes. But one facet of his game has made him totally unique at Juventus: the long Weston McKennie throw-in.

McKennie became the first U.S. international to score on consecutive Serie A match days with a great finish against Hellas Verona on Saturday, days after heading in a goal against Sassuolo. The 23-year-old has started about half of Juventus’ matches this campaign and only three times hasn’t appeared at all, once because of yellow-card accumulation punished in the first match of the season.

McKennie has become increasingly important for Massimiliano Allegri; only Paulo Dybala and Álvaro Morata have scored more for the Old Lady this season. One thing that’s helped McKennie earn his spot in the Juve lineup has been his ability to channel Rory Delap and launch long throws into the box, turning a simple throw-in into a terrific goal-scoring opportunity.

But some have wondered if the long Weston McKennie throw-in is legal, and it’s easy to see why.

Watching McKennie send one of his long throws toward the penalty spot, he looks more like an NFL quarterback trying to throw the ball over them mountains

Long Weston McKennie Throw-In

So are Weston McKennie’s throw-ins legal?

First, let’s look at the throw-in rules. According to the guidance from The FA, at the moment the ball is heaved, the thrower must:

  • Stand facing the field of play.
  • Have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline.
  • Throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where it left the field of play.

Here’s a clip of a Weston McKennie throw-in against Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday. 

Though McKennie appears a bit sideways as he begins his throw, by the time the ball is released, he’s mostly facing the field of play with both feet on the ground and with both hands over his head. However, he doesn’t appear to follow the guideline of having his hands go from behind and over the head, with his right arm clearly going alongside it, much like one might throw a baseball. 

But, having watched about a dozen of these McKennie throws now, despite this form being followed each time, no referee has ruled it a foul throw. And really, that’s all that matters: If the referee allows it, it’s legal. Leave it to a Texan to manage to make what amounts to a football throw legal. You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the boy.

But it’s not just the referees in Serie A and the Champions League allowing these throws. Back in 2019, McKennie was making similar throws while playing for the USMNT in the Gold Cup. 

Embed from Getty Images

Despite the goal-scoring threat a long Weston McKennie throw-in creates, Juventus has yet to score off such a heave. Nonetheless, the Bianconeri were able to beat Zenit 4-2 on Tuesday in Turin. Dybala scored the first two and Federico Chiesa and Morata finished off the scoring for Juventus, which clinched its spot in the knockout rounds.

McKennie was unable to get on the score sheet, but he nearly scored the goal of the week when he dribbled from inside his own half and into the Zenit box, but his shot ripped off the underside of the crossbar and out.

Weston McKennie Chance vs. Zenit

Juventus now leads Group H with 12 points, three ahead of Chelsea, which on Tuesday saw American winger Christian Pulisic return to the lineup for the first time since August in a 1-0 win over Malmö. 

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