Weston McKennie isn’t quite washed up with the USMNT, at least not yet. (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Gregg Berhalter is willing let bygones be bygones and leave things in the past.

In other words, Weston McKennie has a clean slate with his return to the U.S. men’s national team.

McKennie, who was sent home during the September window during World Cup qualifying, has been selected for the October trio of matches by the head coach.

The 23-year-old Juventus midfielder was suspended for the El Salvador qualifier and send back to Italy after violating team COVID-19 protocols, but he was among the 27 players selected by Berhalter Wednesday.

“It’s a clean slate, but there’s a certain amount of trust that that Weston needs to rebuild with the group,” Berhalter said during a Zoom media conference call Wednesday afternoon.

“We stress the importance of us having a young team, people making mistakes, and people being held held accountable for their mistakes. And that’s exactly what it was. I spoke to Weston. He was very forthcoming at the time. And as far as I’m concerned, this is something that’s done. He’s still going to be held accountable for his behavior. Everybody’s going to be held accountable. That’s the type of culture we have in the group. We had good conversations with him. He’s focused on helping the team win.”

Berhalter later stated: “We have a young group. This group needs to learn. I think we’re way too quick to condemn people, and [we need to] really understand a player’s perspective. Listen, his behavior was unacceptable. He took responsibility for it. We move on.”

With midfielder Christian Pulisic and midfielder-forward Gio Reyna sidelined for the qualifiers with injuries suffered during the September window, McKennie has become a key component for the next three matches. The USA will host Jamaica in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 7.

“Weston’s a very dynamic midfielder,” Berhalter said. He covers a ton of ground. He arrives in the penalty box. He can unbalance players with the ball, dribbling, without the ball, running. Defensively, he’s very strong. He’s a top-quality player. We’re still waiting for him to hit the top form with Juventus. We know he could do it. We’ve seen him do it in the past. They’re working with him hard, He’s working hard on his game. We’re confident he’s going to get to a good spot.”

The USMNT will visit Panama Oct. 10 before returning home to host Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio Oct. 13.