McKennie back in US line-up for Jamaica: Berhalter

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Weston McKennie (left) will return from suspension for the United States in their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Jamaica on Thursday (AFP/Marco BERTORELLO)

Weston McKennie will start for the United States in their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Jamaica on Thursday, a month after being kicked out of the squad for breaching Covid-19 protocols, USA coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed.

Juventus midfielder McKennie was dropped for last month's 1-1 draw with Canada before being expelled from the squad altogether for a subsequent game in Honduras following the disciplinary breach.

However, USA coach Berhalter told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday that McKennie would be back in the starting line-up for Thursday's CONCACAF qualifier against Jamaica in Austin, Texas.

"Weston's going to start the game tomorrow," Berhalter said. "He has been focused coming to this week. We're certainly not holding anything against him.

"Is he going to have to rebuild trust by showing that he's the leader that we expect him to be? Of course. But there's nothing held against him."

Berhalter said the handling of the 23-year-old McKennie's case reflected the challenges of managing one of the youngest USA squads in history.

"We're dealing with young players here and there are moments when mistakes are going to be made," Berhalter said. "And part of that process is learning from your mistakes and going from there."

Berhalter's side head into Thursday's clash buoyed by the emphatic 4-1 away victory over Honduras in their last qualifier, which followed disappointing draws with El Salvador and the Canadians.

After Thursday's clash with Jamaica, the USA travels to Panama City to face Panama on Sunday before returning for a home game against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio, next Wednesday.

While the USA are third in the eight-team standings behind Mexico and Canada, Jamaica are bottom with just one point from their opening seven games.

Berhalter, however, warned his players against complacency, noting that the Reggae Boyz had suffered only a narrow 2-1 defeat to Mexico last month at the Azteca Stadium.

"This is a difficult team," Berhalter said. "It's going to be far from an easy game. They pushed Mexico to the absolute limit at altitude. Mexico scored nearly in injury time to get the winner.

"It's a difficult team to break down. So our focus right now is on the first game. And when we're done with this game we'll pick up the pieces and focus on the next one. But right now our focus is on Jamaica.

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