Weston McKennie knows how important it is to get off to a good start in the group stages of the World Cup as he said on Saturday that the United States is focused on beating Wales on Monday in their first game in Group B.
It’s been a long four-year wait to get back to the world’s stage after the team failed to qualify for the 2018 edition of the tournament in Russia. However, this young group of Americans is hungry to make up for lost time as they hope to leave an impression among fans in Qatar and stateside when they take the field.
When looking at their record for wins at World Cup openers, it’s not a rosy one as they only won two games during their participation in the tournament from 1994-2014 (3-2 over Portugual 2002 and 2-1 over Ghana in 2014).
Speaking at a press conference at the U.S. team’s training base, the midfielder noted that they are not taking Wales lightly.
“As a team, as a group, we always want to just focus game by game,” said McKennie. “So of course with Wales being the first one, there’s no way that we’re going to look past them or anything because we know they’re a strong team.
“We know that it’s going to be a hard game. But we definitely want to win the first game, to come out with three points. [It’s been] just three, four years of just working up to this moment, I think all the guys are ready to go, and the staff is ready to go and put a game plan together. So hopeful we execute that.”
When asked about his recovery from a quad injury that he suffered while playing for Juventus, McKennie was positive about the progress as both his club and U.S. Soccer medical staff have worked together to ensure he makes a return to fitness before the Wales’ game.
“Obviously in my personal position or how I’m doing or how I am in terms of recovery, I came in good, I came in at a pace that was controlled,” he said.
“Juventus and the national team, they were both working together to make sure that I’m 100 percent fit here. So I came in, did a couple days of just maintaining and keep it under control. We played the friendly the other day, and I felt good. I felt ready to go, and that’s where I’m at.”
With the Texas native returning to full fitness, it’s highly likely he’ll be on the field at the start alongside Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah when they take on the Dragons.