6

Learning languages, talking race and soccer: U.S. U20 captain Mark McKenzie opens up over dinner

It has been a busy day in the McKenzie household; that’s only natural when there are inhabitants ages 20 and younger. One of them, Mark, just so happens to be a second-year center-back with the Philadelphia Union and one of the rising stars within U.S. Soccer. But it’s another McKenzie who has the more pressing matter. Younger sister Madison has prom coming up and a decision needs to be made.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“Sorry I’m late,” says Mark, who slides into a booth at a Buffalo Wild Wings, just miles away from the McKenzie home. “I had to help my sister pick out her prom dress. It’s a big deal, you know?”

“The last year has been great. There were a lot of ups and downs but it’s been a learning experience,” McKenzie says. “I just wanted to put my head down and do my work, and ultimately, I feel like my play would do the talking and it did. It’s been a whirlwind to keep it all together, but I’m extremely humbled and thankful for what happened last year.”6

On this night, however, McKenzie is like any U.S. fan experiencing the emotions that comes with watching the national team, this one a late March friendly against Chile. There is praise for Michael Bradley (“Dude, I picked his brain so much during camp”) and Gyasi Zardes (“That first touch bro, how ’bout that?”). But there is also angst when Chile equalizes. (“Argh! Can’t let that happen.”)

One of the biggest takeaway from watching the Chile game with this budding U.S. star is that McKenzie is a true student and lover of the game. He’ll sit there and patiently wait for your reasons as to why Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo while munching on his sandwich, and then counter it with his own in support of the Portuguese superstar.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

He’ll also wade into waters that divide much of American soccer. Promotion and relegation? “We need it. We need that incentive so we don’t get complacent.” That night in Trinidad in October 2017? “It was a sad night. So much buildup for a big game and to see it crumble hurt me personally, because I’m part of it in a way.”

McKenzie has a passion for other sports, too. His occasional glances at the other televisions in the restaurant reveal as much. The NBA is a favorite, and while he enjoys watching the games, it’s the off-court stuff that really gets McKenzie’s attention. “NBA Twitter, man. It’s so petty! I love it,” he says with a laugh.