United States U20 head coach Tab Ramos called McKenzie “a natural leader” in the news release.
“First of all, he’s a hard player on the field and he’s a good player,” Ramos said. “Secondly, he has that charisma off the field that allows for him to have a voice and for people to follow that voice. I think the important part is that he’s a good representative of U.S. Soccer and what we stand for, for doing the right thing all the time, for working hard and for being someone that the younger guys can look up to.”
McKenzie and Union teammate Matt Real both wore the captain’s armband at the CONCACAF U20 Championship last fall that the U.S. won. McKenzie was named to the Best XI for the World Cup qualifying tournament and was also nominated fro 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year.
“It’s an honor to be named captain,” McKenzie said in a news release. “I hold myself to a high standard. I try and do the little things, try and push the other guys to do those little things because ultimately it adds up and it boils over on to the field. We have a lot of leaders on this team, so I’m extremely humbled to be named captain of this group.”
McKenzie has had an injury-plagued start to his 2019 club season. He had an ankle injury in preseason, suffered a concussion in early March and had an emergency appendectomy in late April. He’s played just 12 minutes this season in MLS.
The U.S. kicks off the tournament Friday against Ukraine (2:30 p.m. ET; FS1, Universo). They play Nigeria on May 27 and finish group play against Qatar on May 30.