Weston McKennie has been playing alongside fellow American soccer star Christian Pulisic since the pair were barely teenagers. That means McKennie knows Pulisic as well as anyone on the U.S. men’s national team that has assembled in St. Louis this week ahead of Saturday’s friendly match (kickoff 5:30 p.m. ET) against Uzbekistan.

So who better to judge the state of Pulisic’s game since the forward moved from English Premier League titan Chelsea to seven time European champ AC Milan this summer than the Juventus midfielder?

“Obviously we’ll see in the game on the weekend, but in trainings it just seems like he’s having more fun,” said McKennie, who returned to Italy’s Serie A this summer after spending the back half of last season on loan to England’s Leeds, said of Pulisic during a Thursday Zoom call with reporters.

“It seems like he’s more fluid. Seems like he’s more confident in the decisions that he’s making in the trainings: taking players one-on-one, getting shots off, scoring goals.”

Pulisic started and scored in each of his first two league matches for Milan, which reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League last season without him. The club bought Pulisic for a cut-rate transfer fee of around $20 million in July after Pulisic’s four up-and-down seasons in London; while Pulisic helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2021, becoming the first American to appear in the final, he barley played during last year’s disastrous campaign — when the Blues finished 12th in the 20-team Prem — despite starring for his country at the 2022 World Cup in the middle of the English season. 

“I think there’s always a point in time in players’ careers where things aren’t going the way that you want it to go or how you pictured it to go.,” McKennie said. “Just to see him succeeding, to see him being the player that we all know that he can be at Milan is transferring over really good [to the USMNT].

Adding to his comfort level with the Rossoneri is the fact that coach Stefano Pioli personally recruited Pulisic, who dealt with a revolving door of managers with Chelsea. Pulisic, who turns 25 later this month, has also been reunited with several fellow former Blues, including close friends Olivier Giroud and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Pulisic’s renewed swagger has been fully apparent this week, according to McKennie.

“In trainings, he’s pulling off moves that I haven’t seen him pull off in a long time,” the midfielder said. “So just to see him have the confidence again, and starting off well in Milan and solidifying himself there, is great.

“It’s really exciting to be able to see that,” McKennie added. “I’ve known him since he was 13 and the one thing about soccer that’s most important is always to have fun with it. Because once you stop having fun is whenever it gets really hard. So just to see him having fun with the game again is amazing.”

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports who has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at FIFA World Cups on five continents. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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