McKennie to Cincinnati would be good for USMNT

A few weeks ago, a report from Kristian Dyer of Pro Soccer Wire linked FC Cincinnati with a transfer for US Men’s National Team mainstay Weston McKennie.

Since then, alleged details have emerged. such as FCC possibly making a $15 million bid to Juventus, to McKennie leaving the US Men’s National Camp and traveling to Cincinnati prior to its game against Bolivia.

This has led to a flurry of excitement from FCC fans and a deluge of negative sentiment from USMNT “commentators.”

While it is smart to ignore anonymous accounts that gain clout through regurgitation of information or being the most extreme voice of a situation, there can be moments of truth that will shape the larger narrative. And while the criticisms seem true if you are unfamiliar with the track record of FCC, they don’t hold up when you dig into who this team has become.

Weston McKennie would be giving up on his career by coming to MLS.

FC Cincinnati has been the best developmental club in MLS under Pat Noonan while simultaneously scoring the most points in that time period.

You may not have noticed FCC’s ability to develop talent over the last two years, but that is because they’ve been able to maximize the talents of pros who are rising outside of the traditional pipelines. In the last two seasons they have:

  • Elevated Lucho Acosta from a promising #10 with flashes of brilliance to MVP.
  • Reignited Brandon Vazquez’ form to push for inclusion in the 2022 World Cup squad before being called up for the USMNT in 2023.
  • Brought Matt Miazga home and turned him from struggling European CB to MLS Defender of the Year.
  • Brought in Yerson Mosquera on loan from Wolves and transformed him into a starting La Liga center back.
  • Rehabbed Santiago Arias from a catastrophic leg injury, and helped him to a return to the Colombian National Team.
  • Took Junior Moreno from MLS journeyman to Venezuelan National Team player.
  • Roman Celentano and Ian Murphy developed from MLS Draft Picks to USMNT call-ups in two seasons.

Not only have they been great developers of talent on the roster, which is arguably not important for McKennie who is entering his prime, but FCC will also put him in a pivotal role he would never get in Europe.

The USMNT doesn’t need more role players, they need players who know how to win games. Ones who know how to demand the ball and declare they will be victorious before they have scored.

By joining FCC, he would immediately be elevated to a place where he becomes a difference-maker and game-winner every time he is on the field. He wouldn’t bear the burden of being the main creator for the team as Acosta would never give up the creative reins, but he would be required to be the second fiddle talent the same way he is with the national team. 

It would also be these invaluable reps in using his talents to break the game model and cashing in on opportunities that would be available to no other player on the team. And if you want the USMNT to win a World Cup, this is a role he would never be trusted with on any team in Europe.

By coming to MLS he would be making the USMNT worse because MLS isn’t a talented enough league.

This argument I most disagree with. Both because I don’t think people understand how talented MLS is and because this would force McKennie into a role he would never get in Europe.

Is MLS as good as the Champions League or Premier League teams? No.

Are they as good as the bottom of the top five leagues? Yes and arguably might be better than those teams.

In Serie A, the league McKennie is most likely to depart, two of the teams who just got promoted are Venezia FC and Como FC. Both of those teams have players who transferred from MLS playing for them. And if they returned today, none of them would be elite difference-makers in MLS.

Daryl Dike, who was a very good striker in MLS, joined Barnsley in 2020/21 and won back-to-back Players of the Month awards for the club and pushed them into a playoff position.

In La Liga, Yerson Mosquera walked into a starting position for a Europa League squad after spending a single season in MLS.

MLS continues to raise its talent level year after year. It is often not the flashy names that people would recognize coming into the league, but there has not been an offseason where their incoming names did not elevate the league.

MLS isn’t a serious league because it doesn’t have Promotion and Relegation.

Ask any FC Cincinnati or Columbus Crew if their semifinal game last year had any additional significance.

Ask New York Red Bull fans if they weren’t crushed after their PK loss in the first round last year.

Tell the Montreal squad who had to watch their playoff hopes crumble on the field after their season finale that they shouldn’t have felt bad because it didn’t mean they got relegated.

There are valid reasons to espouse the difficulty of playing with great intensity week in and week out, and no other team in MLS has shown that ability better than FCC. They have the most wins over the last two seasons. 

There may be teams who give up on games, but it is not this team, and it would go a long way to infuse the USMNT with more of that ethos.

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