Schalke midfielder and U.S. international Weston McKennie opened up about the strange circumstances of returning to Bundesliga play without fans.
Over the weekend, U.S. men’s national team midfielder Weston McKennie became one of the first American soccer players to return to play amid the pandemic as he started for Schalke in the headlining match of the Bundesliga’s return.
McKennie called the whole situation “awkward,” as the game came back without fans – meaning you “hear every voice and echo in the stadium, you hear every ball get kicked” – and with new safety protocols – meaning players wore masks on the bench and had only trained together for about a week beforehand.
“It was awkward. It felt like soccer but it didn’t feel like soccer at the same time,” McKennie said in an interview with ESPN’s Taylor Twellman. “No fans, not really an atmosphere, you have to really depend on your self motivation and your self drive to really give 100 percent in the game.
“Obviously we took a big L on this weekend in the Revierderby. In that game you can tell we’d been out of it for a long time.”
That big L was a 4-0 hammering by rivals Borussia Dortmund.
“It was definitely not our best day at the office for sure,” McKennie said. “I felt like we didn’t play with the passion that was demanded for the game. There wasn’t a lot of motivation, I guess you can say.
“For me, I may not have my best game, but motivational wise – to cover ground, to run there, to go into tackles here – I tried my best. … It was difficult as a collective, as a team as well. We thought it would have turned out better. But it was one of those days that nothing really clicked for us.”
Amid the lackluster performance from Schalke, McKennie was one of the closest things to a bright spot. The American had the most touches and interceptions of any Schalke player and applied the second-most pressures and tackles. He also attempted his side’s most passes, completing the second-most.
Schalke, who slipped two places to eighth, are back in action on Sunday when they host 14th-place Augsburg.