Weston McKennie will be welcomed back to the  USMNT if he plays well with Juventus, head coach Gregg Berhalter says. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Weston McKennie violated the U.S. men’s national team’s COVID-19 protocol not once, but twice, according to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle.

The 23-year-old Juventus midfielder was suspended for the squad’s final two World Cup qualifiers in the September series by head coach Gregg Berhalter Monday.

McKennie reportedly spent an evening outside of the team’s COVID-19 bubble in Nashville, Tenn. On another night, he brought back someone inside the bubble to his hotel room.

During a Tuesday Zoom press conference, Berhalter would neither deny or confirm the reason why McKennie was dropped from the squad.

“What I’m hearing from a lot of the questions is starting to get into information that does not need to know,” he said. “I’m very upfront. very open with the media, but this is a team matter. I mean this is this stuff that happens within the team. That’s not appropriate to share to the outside world.  I’ll leave it at that because I think what we do. … When it goes to a point where too much becomes open … that’s not what we’re about.”

Berhalter added that the decision to send McKennie back to Italy wasn’t an easy one. The USA has recorded only two points in its first two WCQs with a third match looming in Honduras Wednesday night.

“When you talk about team policies and team roles and what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, the team absolutely comes first,” he said. “We made this decision, not only for the short term but for the long term health of the program. 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.”

Berhalter said the door wasn’t shut on McKennie joining the team for future games or qualifiers.

“If you’ve been watching the moves that we’ve been making how we’ve been talking to people and how it’s an open-door policy,” he said. “It’s very rarely been a situation where a player would never be allowed back into national team camp. You see the track record; guys in and out 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, back in the team.”

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