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Weston McKennie transfer to Leeds: How a USMNT heavy midfield could line up with Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams

The core of the United States men’s national team can increasingly be found at Leeds as Weston McJennie announced that he has officially joined Leeds from Juventus. The deal is a loan until the end of the season with an option to buy for €33 million plus add-ons. It’s quite an addition for Jesse Marsch to get a player with Champions League experience to help save Leeds United from relegation as McKennie will slot in with fellow Americans Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson. With the uncertainty around Juventus who got hit with a 15 point deduction and could face a possible ban from European competition, if they are to qualify, it makes sense for McKennie to move but it’s also risky going to a Leeds United side that is only one point above the relegation zone in the Premier League.

But Leeds seem to have convinced him of Marsch’s vision of the team, so he’s trusting in his talent to keep the team in the Premier League. So, with McKennie on the way, the question now is how will Leeds United line up?

Primarily, Marsch has used a 4-2-3-1 with a double pivot of Marc Roca and Adams behind Jack Harrison, Willy Gnoto and Aaronson but a few times, the team has used a 4-3-3. McKennie can slot almost anywhere but is most comfortable as a left-sided midfielder with freedom.

Here are a few ways that Leeds United could deploy McKennie:

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1. Keeping the double pivot

With Aaronson’s versatility, he can slide out to the wing with McKennie operating as a pseudo 10 for Leeds. While not known for work with the ball at his feet, McKennie is someone who can create space with his runs, allowing freedom for Roca to orchestrate play from deep while the wingers have more space around the pitch. This would need one of Harrison or Gnoto to go to the bench and it feels like when push comes to shove, Harrison could be who makes way.

Despite scoring 19 goals and assisting 13 more for Leeds during three seasons in the Premier League, Harrision is having a down season by his standards with only one goal and four assists. He’s also shooting slightly less and winning fewer tackles than he has in the past with Leeds. Splitting time with Gnoto could help keep both players on their toes while giving Marsch more ways to change the game off of the bench. This lineup would also be able to shift onto a 4-3-3 with Adams at the base of the pivot, similarly to how the USMNT operates.

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2. Go full America

If Marsh wants to operate similarly to the national team, Aaronson sees himself as an eight — a role occupied by Yunus Musah for the USMNT — and could play alongside Adams and McKennie in the center of the park. Considering how well the trio worked with Musah for the national team, there’s reason to expect that Aaronson can excel there too especially with the midfield having a good understanding of space and each other, they could get the job done. 

This option would see Roca as the name to leave the XI which feels harsh based on his performances but could also help ensure that Roca’s minutes are managed after playing fewer than 500 league minutes in the past two seasons for Bayern Munich and Espanyol due to injuries and competition. This is Roca’s healthiest season since 2020 but with how much strain pressing can put on players, not being so reliant on him can go a long way.

3. Does Brenden Aaronson need rest?

Finally, it’s important to remember that Aaronson is only 21 and has only played more than 2000 league minutes in a season once when he moved form the Philadelphia Union to RB Salzburg. Now at more than 1500 minutes on the season, starting all 19 games so far, it could be good to give him a break every once in a while. 

Aaronson is critical to Marsch’s system but having him at his best is also important, and like if Harrison was benched, Aaronson would provide a dynamic presence when needed filling in anywhere within the attack. It also provides formation flexibility to even shift McKennie to the wing in more of a 4-4-2 if needed.

Adding such a versatile midfielder gives Marsch a lot of options wile also showing how big the draw of the Premier League is. From a Champions League side to the bottom half, McKennie could help bring European soccer back to West Yorkshire.

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