USMNT’s Weston McKennie, quarantining 5,000 miles from home, is hopeful for Bundesliga return

For United States men’s national team star Weston McKennie, dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has been more than just adapting to lifestyle changes. In Germany and 5,000 miles away from his family in Texas, McKennie is trying to make the most out of his international quarantine. 

The 21-year-old Schalke midfielder’s daily routine has been the same for weeks as he craves a return to normalcy, like the rest of the world. 

“Just playing video games, staying up late and working out at night,” McKennie told CBS Sports. “I work out late at night normally, like 12-1 a.m. I’m just playing Call of Duty, Fortnite, FIFA, and watching movies. Other than that, nothing else.”

Between his time on the sticks with friends home and abroad, binge-watching series and checking out new movies, it’s the high intensity training he does at home that has helped him clear his head and stay ready for whenever action resumes. 

Many Bundesliga clubs have returned to training, and Germany is slowly but surely returning to normalcy before many other countries in Europe. Things aren’t quite yet back to normal at Schalke, but the club did resume training in small groups. McKennie is hopeful that before long players can get going and matches can take place as long as it’s deemed safe by health officials.

Germany, with high-level testing for the virus and a very low death rate compared to the rest of the world, has had one of the world’s most effective responses to the coronavirus. The U.S., meanwhile, has more confirmed cases and deaths than any country in the world, which has added to McKennie’s worries about his family. He’s felt a bit helpless being so far away from Little Elm, Texas, especially with a recent health scare for his mother. 

“My family, they are all back in Texas. My mom just had a bit of a recent scare,” McKennie said. “She had a fever, and I was a little worried there but everything is good now.”

McKennie has tried to stay in as much as possible, only going to the store for necessities while using protective gear and plenty of hand sanitizer. The daily rotation of video games, TV, workouts and down time can become stale before long, but it’s been supplemented by working out on video calls with his Schalke teammates and staff. 

“It’s been one of those processes. You don’t know whether the season is going to restart, so you have to always be prepared,” he said. “We do home workouts, we have an app that we all log in to. It’s like a video chat with everybody. We work out at home over live stream.

“It’s a bit frustrating at the moment because for somebody like me that lives so far away from home, maybe having to play through summer and not having the opportunity to go home at all is a bit frustrating but something that you kind of have to go through. Many other players, I’m sure, are experiencing the same thing right now.”

Before the season was suspended, McKennie had a good thing going under Schalke coach David Wagner, who played eight times for the United States men’s national team in the 1990s and got Huddersfield Town promoted to the Premier League in 2017. Last season, Schalke won just eight league games and nearly got relegated. This season, Wagner led the team to more wins than the previous season by mid-January and has his squad currently in sixth place, enough for Europa League qualification. 

“Surprisingly, me and the coach, we speak in German even though he’s a bit American, too. I think one of the biggest differences between this year and last year is we have a lot more confidence,” McKennie said. “When he came in, he instilled a certain amount of confidence in the players and in the team, and the club as well. That’s been a big help. He’s easy to communicate with, he’s easy to talk to, and he has an idea and a plan of how he wants to play. That’s the biggest difference from last year and this year.”

The Bundesliga is hoping for play to potentially resume in early May, behind closed doors. McKennie is looking forward to that moment for himself personally, but also for sports fans around the world craving something, anything than old game replays and rewatching The Sopranos and The Wire. 

“Hopefully it’s a relief, a sense satisfaction as well,” McKennie said. “All of us, the whole sports world, have been without sports for quite some time. Everyone has gotten a taste of what it would be like without sports. I know I definitely have. At this time, I’m sitting here contemplating what I’m going to do after my career because right now not being able to play is a bit hard.

“Whenever sports do come back, I think it will be a good time for many people and a way to kind of try and get past this time that we all have been going through. It would be good for the healing process, something for people to finally look forward to.”

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