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U.S. defender Antonee Robinson introduced to the pace of Brazil’s Douglas Costa

Sep 7, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; United States defender Antonee Robinson (17) plays the ball against Brazil forward Everton (21) during the second half of an international friendly soccer match at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Antonee Robinson is fast – very fast.

But Douglas Costa eclipsed that pace with a burst around the United States national team fullback, leading to a goal in the 11th minute for Brazil en route to their 2-0 win over the Americans Friday night.

“I definitely didn’t have the best start,” Robinson said after the international friendly at MetLife Stadium. “It’s hard to get used to a player like that, who’s so quick. And for the first goal he’s done me down the side and got the better of me pace-wise.”

Robinson, who was applauded for his performance against French star Kylian Mbappé in a 1-1 draw with France ahead of the country’s World Cup triumph, saw a distinct opponent in Costa.

“I’d say it definitely was a different type of speed,” Robinson said after earning his third senior team cap. “I’d say after about two or three steps, he was at full flow and I had to catch up to him. Actual speed-wise, we are probably similar, but his acceleration was a completely different level, and that’s when you have to start adjusting your defensive position against him.”

Costa’s impressive speed was matched by his precise delivery with his non-dominant right foot for teammate Roberto Firmino’s first-time finish from three yards out.

“I probably overthought that. I had to get too tight to him and by the time I settled my feet, I didn’t have a chance to catch him,” the Liverpool, England, native said after viewing the finish from behind Costa. “I’ve got to set my feet earlier.”

U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan said the matchup was a learning opportunity.

“My feeling is you always want to challenge yourself against the best competition you can,” Sarachan said. “You learn from mistakes – you learn from these games that put you on the back foot rather than against a weak team where you can get away with mistakes.”

Robinson, who is on loan to Championship side Wigan Athletic after signing a three-year contract with Everton of the English Premier League, received encouragement and instruction that enabled a more balanced performance in the second half.

“I took on the advice of the coaches in the second half and feel like I grew into the game,” said Robinson, whose father hails from White Plains, N.Y.  “When I first started the game, they were hitting the diagonal ball long to Acosta. That was a big outlet for them. I had to adjust my position. I got tight and didn’t let him at me as easily, and when [Brazilian forward] Willian came on it was a case of doing the same thing and not let him play. Then I can take players the other way and get into the attack as well.”

The Chelsea star Willian replaced Costa in the 61st minute.

Mbappe, Costa, Willian – a substantial defensive task for Robinson in his last two international matches.

“The last two games against France and Brazil – it’s the highest level you can play against,” said Robinson, who has played the full 90 minutes in each of his six appearances with Wigan. “Games like this against Brazil and top teams, you’ve got to enjoy every minute of it. As much of a challenge as it was, I enjoyed it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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