U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter explained the decision to send Weston McKennie home ahead of the group's trip to Honduras while clarifying that the midfielder does have a future with the program despite his recent incident.
McKennie was dismissed for a "violation of team policy" related to an incident involving Covid protocol, with ESPN reporting that McKennie spent a night outside of the USMNT's bubble before inviting a guest into the bubble on a separate occasion.
The Juventus midfielder missed the USMNT's 1-1 draw with Canada and will be out for Wednesday's visit to Honduras, but Berhalter says to expect McKennie back with the team at some point.
What was said?
"I think when you talk about team policies and team rules and what we're trying to accomplish as a team," Berhalter told reporters, "the team absolutely comes first, and we made this decision not only for the short term but for the long-term health of the program.
"And it's not an easy decision. Trust me. Countless coaches are faced with decisions where they have to take talented players out of the lineup for some reason or other, but we did it for what we think is the good of the group and the team.
"It is what it is. We're obviously going to be missing Weston for Wednesday, but it doesn't rule him out for the future, but we know that we're without him on Wednesday."
When asked to expand on McKennie's future with the program, Berhalter continued: "If you've been watching the moves that we've been making, how we've been talking to people. it's an open-door policy.
"There will very rarely be a situation where a player would never be allowed back into national team camp. That's not how we operate. If you see the track record, it's that guys are in based on performance and based on how they're doing.
"Me and Weston had long conversations. He's a guy that I care for deeply. He's a big part of the team and I'm sure when he's performing well he'll be back on the team."
Replacements in the middle
With McKennie out, the U.S. still has several midfield options to start the Honduras game.
Berhalter turned to Tyler Adams, Kellyn Acosta and Sebastian Lletget in the midfield against Canada, while Brenden Aaronson could start centrally after playing on the wing in that game.
Cristian Roldan is also in the U.S. squad while Jackson Yueill was added to the team in the wake of McKennie's departure.