McKennie, back from banishment, refuses to meet with media

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Back with the U.S. national team following a two-game banishment for breaking team COVID-19 protocols, Weston McKennie is refusing to speak with reporters.

The 23-year-old Juventus midfielder was dropped for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Canada and Honduras by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter for the rules violation, then brought back for last week’s match against Jamaica and played the entire match.

McKennie missed Sunday’s loss at Panama with a quadriceps injury, training along with left back Antonee Robinson and goalkeeper Zack Steffen in Columbus, where the U.S. plays Costa Rica on Wednesday night.

Berhalter says McKennie accepted responsibility, and the player and team have moved on from the disciplinary issue.

“In terms of his availability for media, it’s a personal choice and I support Weston in that,” Berhalter said Tuesday. “It’s a decision that he has to make himself, and it is what it is. His focus right now is on the field and I think he demonstrated that Thursday night against Jamaica, showing that he’s focused on helping the team win and doing his job, and I can’t ask anything else more.”

McKennie’s agent, Richard Motzkin, declined comment.

Berhalter announced after the Sept. 5 match against Canada that McKennie did not dress for the game because of the rules violation and said the player was being sent home but the coach did not go into details.

“When this whole thing happened. I think we were really upfront with the circumstances without getting into details,” Berhalter said. “I think we talked about it in general terms, and that’s what a team’s about. And I don’t think it’s our job to have to disclose everything to the media. I think we were up front in saying what happened, the consequences of what happened. He took responsibility for what happened. And then as far as he’s concerned and we’re concerned — or as far as we’re concerned, it’s something that we move forward from.”

Berhalter wasn’t sure whether McKennie and Robinson would be available for Wednesday’s game.

“We’re gathering information as we speak on Weston’s status,” Berhalter said. “He pushed it a little bit yesterday and the signs are he’s making progress, but we’ll have to see today in training.”

Robinson did not make the trip to Panama because of British COVID-19 protocols that would have required a quarantine on his return to the UK, where he plays for Fulham. He disclosed Tuesday he also has a slight knee issue that involves treatment with physiotherapy and strengthening.

“He’s another guy that we’ll test in training,” Berhalter said. “Right now we don’t have enough information to make that decision.”

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