Weston McKennie's No.2 shirt was traditionally associated with right-backs, but the Schalke youngster has played - and impressed - all over the pitch for club and country. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
Weston McKennie's No.2 shirt was traditionally associated with right-backs, but the Schalke youngster has played - and impressed - all over the pitch for club and country. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

What is Weston McKennie's best position for Schalke and the USA?


If variety is the spice of life, then it is safe to say Schalke's Weston McKennie is enjoying a distinctly Habanero-esque existence right now, having played in defence, midfield and most recently in attack for the Royal Blues.

But what is the USA international's best position on the field? bundesliga.com takes a closer look.

Watch: McKennie happy to play anywhere!

The 20-year-old former FC Dallas youth player made his Bundesliga debut as a late substitute in left midfield on the final Matchday of the 2016/17 season and operated in a more defensive midfield role in his 13 Bundesliga starts last term.

Weston McKennie shining at centre-back?

He went the full 90 minutes on the right-hand side of a back three with Naldo and Salif Sane, and although Schalke lost 2-0, McKennie's performance was more than respectable. For example, he won 80 per cent of his aerial duals, despite being an inch shorter at 6'1" than Hertha striker Vedad Ibisevic.

So far, so normal for a player trained in that particular position. The first signs of change arrived in January this year when Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco experimented with McKennie at centre-back in a friendly with Genk during the winter break. He played the entire second half in the middle of a back-three and helped his side to a 2-1 win.

"We've been wanting to try him out in central defence for a while," Tedesco said afterwards. "He's good in the air, strong and up for anything." While that may have been a successful trial run, it was not until this season that McKennie played in defence in a competitive game against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 2.

Back where he belongs at defensive midfield?

McKennie was back in defensive midfield in his next games, against Porto in the UEFA Champions League and subsequently in the Bundesliga against Bayern Munich and Mainz. And although this is arguably his preferred position, he sees less of the ball (39.4 touches per game), completes less passes (66 per cent) and fewer sprints (16) than when he plays elsewhere.

Compare that to when he is played in a more advanced role. Suddenly he has more of the ball (53.1 touches), completes more passes (77.4 per cent) and makes more sprints (17). This was the case against Fortuna Düsseldorf on Matchday 7, a game in which he scored his maiden Bundesliga goal to open the score in a 2-0 win.

Indeed, that goal arrived just three days after McKennie netted his first-ever Champions League goal, scoring a last-gasp winner away to Lokomotiv Moscow. His position in that game? Again, a freer central midfield role.

His only other goal at senior level likewise came from this position, when he found the net on his senior international debut against Portugal in November 2017.

"Weston's important for us for more than just his goals," said Tedesco recently. "When things weren't going so well for us, he embodied a lot of the things we stand for. He's got a good mentality, is humble and hard-working […] If he says like that he'll keep getting better. He's just a very good player."

McKennie as a striker?

As if to put that to the test, Tedesco decided to stretch McKennie again on Bundesliga Matchday 8, playing him off the shoulder of striker Guido Burgstaller at home to Werder Bremen. Schalke may have ended up losing, but again McKennie's display was encouraging.

Despite playing more, risky balls higher up the pitch, the Schalke No.2 only misplaced 16.7 per cent of his passes, made more sprints (26) and covered more ground (7.84 miles) than in any other game this season. It is a position that appears to suit his talents: blessed with pace and stamina he can execute a high-pressing strategy, and his recent goals hint at more to come from him in the final third.

"I can play anywhere except goalkeeper," laughed McKennie when asked about his versatility. "But if the coach asks me to play there, then I would."

Watch: McKennie's first Bundesliga goal (from 1:00)

Unlikely as that may seem, it is that very attitude that Tedesco finds so appealing. And having only recently passed the 40 senior game mark as a professional, such exposure and experience to a variety of positions can only stand McKennie in good stead for club and country.

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