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Miles Robinson ‘excited to see what I can do’ with first USMNT call-up

Gregg Berhalter selected the Atlanta United center back to his squad for a pair of September friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay.

May 8, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) makes a pass in the first half against Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)
May 8, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) makes a pass in the first half against Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United centerback Miles Robinson is not taking any expectations into his first camp with the United States men’s national team.

“It’s hard to tell now,” Robinson said Thursday when asked how he fits into the squad. “I’ve never met those guys really, I’ve never played with them. So I’m just excited to go out there and see what I can do.

“I’m just trying to meet the guys, meet the coaching staff, just see the environment, see what it’s like, learn as much as possible, just gain all I can from the experience in general.”

The September friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay will offer Robinson the chance to receive his first senior caps with the USMNT. The 22-year-old appeared with U.S. under-23 side earlier this year, and he has participated in U-18 and U-20 camps in the past. Robinson said manager Gregg Berhalter called him earlier this week, and the centerback first shared the good news with his family, “just on the group chat.”

When Robinson received a call-up to the U-23’s in March, he told reporters he did not spend time thinking of a future with the national team. That has changed.

“Honestly, I just try to live day by day,” Robinson said. “I’m just that type of person, don’t really think too far in the future. Maybe now I’m thinking more about the future than normal. I’m just excited.” 

Robinson sees Berhalter as “a very good tactical coach” and knows he will be asked to break lines with his passing in the manager’s detailed system. In a conference call after announcing his squad, Berhalter praised Robinson and said the player’s one key area for improvement is scoring goals on set pieces.

“I think I should have maybe at least a few goals this season, Robinson admitted, “but some bounces don’t go your way, some I wish I had back. Definitely, I can improve.”

Robinson’s teammates routinely praise his ability to win one-on-one duels. Every game, he is tasked with marking opposing forwards out of the action. It is often easy to see those attackers’ frustrations on the field, and it shows up on the stat sheets. Robinson has committed just 20 fouls in 27 Major League Soccer games this year. He has suffered 22 fouls in league play. 

“He’s a complete defender,” Robinson’s Atlanta teammate and fellow centerback Franco Escobar told reporters Thursday. “He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s good in the air. He’s very young still. As a young player, everybody makes mistakes that you learn from. But he’s a very complete player. He’s shown incredible growth over these two seasons and definitely deserves a call-up.”

Atlanta manager Frank de Boer said “everybody has his goals as a player” and noted Robinson must be pleased with the number of minutes he has played this season. The Dutchman, who played as a centerback and was the Netherlands’ all-time leader in caps until goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar broke his record in 2006, does not expect Robinson to struggle with the mental side of his first call-up.

“Every player is different,” de Boer said. “I can imagine that it will give you a boost, give you a lot of confidence. Of course, maybe he will be nervous for his first cap, but I think when you see him and how he showed his quality here and didn’t show any nerves during the start of the season, he’s very down to earth and works very hard, knows exactly his qualities.

“That’s why he still is on this level. Normally what you see with players who are not as stable as him, they have their peak and then fall down. He didn’t show any downfall of that, so I think he will manage it.”

The recognition is good for Robinson, but it also serves as an advertisement for Atlanta United. When a young player receives a call to appear with his senior national team, that is a selling point for potential future signings. Winning trophies is one aspect of defining a “big club.” Fielding a roster of international-quality players is another.

“For a club like Atlanta, it’s very important,” de Boer said. “It shows that you are doing something right and that players want to come for the future, they want to be involved with Atlanta United because, ‘Hey, I can come play there and come to the national team.’ I think for every boy it’s a dream when you play for your country. I think it’s a good sign for Atlanta United.”

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