United States men's national team midfielder Weston McKennie was suspended for the team's 1-1 draw with Canada and sent home ahead of the matchup against Honduras on Wednesday after "spending a night outside of the team's COVID-19 bubble, as well as bringing an unauthorized individual back inside the bubble to his hotel room on a different evening," according to ESPN's Jeff Carlisle.
Both instances violated the USMNT's coronavirus protocols. McKennie was sent back to Italy and his club, Juventus, by head coach Gregg Berhalter.
McKennie, 23, is the USMNT's most talented central midfielder and one of the face's of the country's talented youth movement. The United States has gotten off to an extremely disappointing start to the final stage of World Cup qualifying, with consecutive draws, making his absence with a very tough road match against Honduras up next all the more impactful.
"Weston will return to Italy and will be unavailable for the match against Honduras due to a violation of team policy," Berhalter said in a statement Monday. "There are high expectations for those who are a part of the U.S. Men's National Team, and in order to be successful it's important that everyone in the group is accountable."
The bigger worry is that a pattern may be emerging.
Per Carlisle, "McKennie's off-field behavior has become a source of concern for both club and country. The Juventus midfielder, who tested positive COVID-19 last October, was suspended by then-manager Andrea Pirlo last April for hosting a party that included teammates Paulo Dybala and Arthur."
The United States will now go into its match against Honduras without several of its best players unavailable. Along with McKennie, Gio Reyna (hamstring) has reportedly traveled back to his club Dortmund, per ESPN's Derek Rae, while Sergino Dest is out with a right ankle sprain.
That trio, along with team captain Christian Pulisic, is the fulcrum of the United States exciting young youth movement. Getting all three points the USMNT desperately needs, in a tough environment in Honduras on Wednesday night, will be extremely difficult without them.