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McKenzie: Returning a ‘mix of emotions with everything going on in the world’

Mark McKenzie talks narrating a powerful new video and Thursday’s MLS is Back Tournament opener against NYCFC

Philadelphia Union

“Philadelphia, it’s been a year and we’re only about halfway through.”

Those are the words, narrated by Philadelphia Union defender Mark McKenzie, that open a powerful video produced by the team ahead of Thursday’s return to play against NYCFC at 9 a.m.

The video, produced in-house by Tyler Beaumont and Jordan Strauss, tells the story of what’s been going on since the Union last played in and around a city that’s experienced the ongoing hardship and devastation from COVID-19 and the outcry in the streets for justice following the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and an end to police brutality and systemic racism.

“There’s layers to what’s going on, you know with Covid happening, but also with, the death or the murders, I should say, of George Floyd, Mr. Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor to name the latest in a long list,” McKenzie said while wearing a Black Lives Matter mask in a video conference with media on Tuesday. “To be able to speak up and provide a voice and provide hope for the city and the club and organization but also outside of the city and organization... This is something that I’ve been trying to live by each and every day. Now that I have narration in my back pocket, hopefully I can carry on and continue to speak up for those who may feel like they don’t have a voice.”

McKenzie went on to speak about the importance of professional athletes using their platform to speak up because “we have the position to influence change” and said he fully supports actions taken by players to speak out and plans to speak out himself.

On the field, McKenzie is locked in a battle for a starting spot with Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes for the center back pairing to start on Thursday. McKenzie paired with Glesnes in the first two games of the season, his first since arriving from his native Norway in the offseason.

“We feed off the competitive edge of each of us,” McKenzie said. “We’re all fired up you know just to have the opportunity to get back on the field again.”

Thursday will be their first opportunity to play anything but intra-squad scrimmages since the LAFC game four months ago.

“It will be maybe not as smooth as we want it to be but that comes with the territory of being the first game back,” he said. “We’re trying to be as sharp as possible so now once we get back to the game day experience we’re ultimately going to have to see what happens.”