Once is happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a trend.
That slightly altered Ian Fleming quote goes to somewhat explain what is happening with teenager Weston McKennie at Schalke.
McKennie got his first Schalke start a few weeks ago in a midweek battle against Bayern Munich. He received a second start in his side's next contest against Hoffenheim and this past weekend he made his third start in as many games against Bayer Leverkusen.
The youngster was part of a trio of Americans in the club’s youth system, along with Haji Wright and Nick Taitague. But McKennie is the only one to break through — Wright made the bench for last year’s season finale and is now on loan with Sandhausen of the 2.Bundesliga this season while Taitague remains with the U-19s.
While Schalke refused to let any of the three go to the U-20 World Cup this past summer, it certainly appears McKennie has been the one to make the greatest strides in the past few months, given where his teammates are now and McKennie’s recent contract extension that ties him down until 2022.
“Weston will develop into a key part of our first team with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel told the club’s website after the deal was announced. “Weston has shown in the past few months that he is more than capable of contributing significantly to the future of Schalke.
“Thanks to his talent and his willingness to learn, Weston has made the rise from the U-19s to the Bundesliga and it’s been a success from the get go. We’re very happy that Weston sees his long-term future to be at FC Schalke 04.”
Given his rapid rise from prospect to sudden starter, there were some calling for McKennie to be added to the U.S. national team roster for the key qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.
That it did not happen this time around is not necessarily a snub — for all the appeal of a teenager earning Bundesliga minutes, McKennie has been holding his own more than excelling in his starts.
But that should not take away from the fact that he has held his own well enough to warrant greater looks from Schalke, and has earned himself a longer stay on the field with each game. He went 57 minutes in his first start, 74 in his second and then came off in stoppage time in his third appearance.
The holding position on the international level has seen quite a few players make arguments for future national team looks in the last few months — Danny Williams of Huddersfield Town and fellow teenager Jonathan Gonzalez of Monterrey to name just two. And, of course, Michael Bradley is firmly entrenched there for the time being.
But if McKennie can keep his place and continue his growth in the Bundesliga, that look may come in time for Russia in 2018, provided the U.S. makes it.
YEDLIN FARES WELL IN PL TEST
Having returned from injury a little under a month ago, DeAndre Yedlin faced a big test Sunday against Liverpool
While the Reds have been inconsistent this year, they boast a pair of terrifying wingers in Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who can make even the best Premier League fullbacks cringe.
But Liverpool’s attack was held to a single goal off a Philippe Coutinho long-range strike and Yedlin can claim at least one instance where he made a big difference in keeping it that way.
Yedlin displayed the pace that makes him so dangerous in one key moment when Salah was played in behind on Newcastle's left. Salah took a heavy touch but still would have been in clear against most teams.
But Yedlin’s pace prevented that. Sprinting back from his right fullback spot, just over the halfway line, he managed to get back to break up Salah’s run just outside the area, covering a remarkable amount of ground in a short period of time.
It was a moment where any U.S. fans who watched the fullbacks struggle with pace and physicality in the Honduras match had to be pleased about, considering it will be Yedlin who will likely man the right-back spot against Panama.
It’s also worth remembering Yedlin took a risk a few years ago. Fresh off a successful loan to Sunderland, he decided it was worth dropping down to the Championshp with the Black Cats' rival Newcastle and working his way back. And while he initially had struggles under Rafa Benitez, Yedlin made himself an every-week starter in his manager’s eyes over the course of the season.
And now, Yedlin has started the last three games since returning from injury. It would seem he has cemented himself as as Premier League right back, and in theory, he has the same position for the national team locked down for the foreseeable future.
CAMERON RETURNS FOR STOKE
In the week leading up to the U.S. roster announcement Sunday, Bruce Arena had expressed confidence Geoff Cameron would be fit in time for the October qualifiers.
That confidence may not have been shared in all circles as in the run up to Stoke City’s match against Southampton on Saturday, even Potters manager Mark Hughes was uncertain if Cameron would be fit to feature.
However, Cameron made his way back into Stoke City’s XI for the contest and went the full 90 minutes in his side's 2-1 win.
It looks like the defender made it through without any setbacks, meaning he should be good to go for the games against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago — though it will be interesting if he is capable of putting in two 90 minute shifts in relatively short succession after a long plane flight to link up with the national team.
GOOCH 'EARNS' SUNDERLAND START
Lynden Gooch began the year as a bench option for Sunderland manager Simon Grayson after an injury-plagued 2016-17 campaign cost him a chance under former manager David Moyes.
However, solid performances in the English League Cup has earned Gooch a greater look for the Black Cats as they battle for a quick return to the Premier League following last season’s relegation.
"We wanted to pick a team that we thought might hurt them,” Grayson said after the 2-2 draw with Preston.
"We looked a threat and George (Honeyman) has been really good all season while Lynden (Gooch) has earned the right to start the game.”
Gooch scored against Cardiff in a start three games ago, came on as a substitute midweek against Ipswich and picked up an assist and then added another assist in Saturday’s draw.
The 21-year-old Gooch is making a case why he deserves more playing time for Sunderland. If he can keep it up, that argument will soon extend to the national team.
DISKERUD MAKES IT TWO GOALS IN THREE GAMES
Mix Diskerud’s had a nice 14 days in Sweden.
The midfielder bagged an early opener Friday in IFK Gothenburg’s 4-0 win over Sirius. It wasn’t a difficult finish as he slotted home a rebound into the empty net, but it counts all the same.
It was Diskerud’s second goal in three games, after he had scored on Sept. 20 against Hammarby.
The 27-year-old midfielder now has five goals and three assists in 25 Allsvenskan games this season.
Is it enough to earn Diskerud a loan elsewhere or a permanent move to Gothenburg in the future? That’s hard to say at this point, but that output and success is a nice change for Diskerud given his struggles in MLS the past few years.