Schalke manager Domenico Tedesco is testing out the 19-year-old Texan at center back, moving him from his place in central midfield. As Schalke's squad becomes healthier during the Bundesliga's winter break, Tedesco says he'll be faced with a selection problem, and getting McKennie reps at center back during the team's winter friendlies could add an element of versatility to his game. McKennie played the second half of Sunday's win over Genk in Spain in defense.
"We've been wanting to try him out in central defense for a while," Tedesco told the Bundesliga's official website. "He's good in the air, strong and up for anything."
McKennie made 13 appearances in the first half of the Bundesliga season in the midfield, helping Schalke to second place in the table–albeit 11 points behind Bayern Munich. He also scored on his debut with the U.S. national team, tallying in November against Portugal in a 1-1 draw.
McKennie, along with fellow Bundesliga 19-year-old star Christian Pulisic, figures to be part of the core nucleus for the U.S. going forward, as it looks to overcome missing the 2018 World Cup and getting back on the grand stage in 2022.