USMNT players, McKennie and Aaronson, struggle in the Premier League as Leeds United look over the edge of the relegation zone
Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson flopped as Leeds limped to a lacklustre defeat against Fulham which leaves them on the edge of relegation.
Stuck in a chamber with the walls closing in, you notice the floor is also wet and the water level is rising. What are those things on the ceiling? Are they spikes? Does anyone have any keys to open the door? What about a hammer to smash through the wall? Brenden, get off the floor and come and help us!
Leeds United are sitting in the 2-D world of the Premier League table, but nevertheless, the squeezing feeling of a lack of air as the gaps between teams get smaller is very real. Javi Gracia’s side trudged to a 2-1 away defeat to Fulham and the side looks all but certain to carry on their spiral of doom into the murky water below the line. The team have now lost 1-5, 1-6 and 2-1 in consecutive games and the USMNT players in the squad are coming under heavy fire for poor performances in the defeats.
USMNT players are struggling for form at Leeds
At this point in time, the team lacks leaders, and in the middle of the field, where the game was lost, sit Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson. Normally, picking out players for singular criticism is always harsh and most of the time, simply unfair. But the situation against Fulham was such that in the post-match press conference, the names of the two USMNT players were mentioned along with the words “out of form”.
American manager Jesse Marsch was sacked in February after poor results all season saw Leeds languish at the bottom end of the league, and although things appeared to have been steadied by the arrival of Javi Gracia, the confidence levels have plummeted due to poor performances from almost all of the squad.
Weston McKennie receives the worst rating in the team from local press
Weston McKennie arrived at Leeds from Juventus in January. Initially coming on loan, the club also agreed to pay the club $40 million in June in an Italian job that looks impossible to comprehend when you realise that he probably deserves to be applauded for remembering to bring his Louis Vuitton wash bag. Against Fulham he provided little to not attacking threat and seemed to always be chugging back when Leeds were caught on the counter.
He is yet to score or grab an assist and his highlight reel starts and ends with a five-second video of him standing on the ball in the warmup before kick-off. Local journalist Graham Smyth gave him a 2/10 - the worst of the whole team - and said that McKennie “gave the ball away, took a yellow after his own poor pass, risked a second one after a poor first touch. Bypassed too easily.”
How can the players turn things around?
When Jack Harrison arrived to Leeds in 2018 after learning his trade in the US, he quickly found out that the physicality of English football was not just an old trope told by balding pundits in various dialects across the main television broadcasters. As such, after being outmuscled more times than a three-legged lion at a family feed, Harrison sent himself to the US to enrol on a physique-smashing fitness course, where he bulked up for the new season in England’s second division.
It worked, and Harrison’s improvement was clear to see. He could handle himself better on the pitch and focus on kicking the ball rather than being kicked off it. Now, on a physical level, he has no trouble managing against the Premier League’s tougher opponents.
Brenden Aaronson’s move to Leeds has quickly gone downhill
In a similar situation, just a year ago, Brenden was a 21-year-old living a comfortable life on the northern boundary of the Alps in Austria, surrounded by the singing, snow-capped hills with his girlfriend and playing for easily the best team in the league. You may have even been to Austria, reader, but I doubt you have been to Beeston; I doubt you even know where it is. It is nothing like Austria: it is grey, cold, wet and is home of the Leeds United football stadium.
It was a huge change of scenery for a 22-year-old who moved for $30 million; he now finds himself in the middle of a fight every week and always ends up as the one on the floor. Bringing back Concorde to send Brenden to the US for some protein shakes and push-ups might be too much, so sliding him in an envelope might just have to do it.
Against Fulham, it wasn’t as though the two players were absent from the game, but what they did was not at the level of being able to affect proceedings in any way whatsoever. Javi Gracia has a huge task on his hands to get the Leeds machine working again, and to do it he needs the best versions of the players he has got. Leeds now sit just a point above the relegation zone with 6 games to go: it’s now or never for the players to step up.