‘I’d rather be called Jedi’ 28/01/2022

The US 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a disappointing start when it started with a draw against El Salvador and Canada, and took a bad turn when it came to a 1-0 deficit in the third game against Honduras. came. San Pedro Sula.

Out of nowhere, rest sub Antonee Robinson came attacking from his left back position to score three minutes into the second half with a volley from a cross into the penalty area through Sebastian Lletget. The USA scored three more goals in the second half for a 4-1 win that allayed growing concerns about the campaign’s derailing rapidly.

Since then, things have been more good than bad for the US, as three wins (all at home) and a five-game draw put the country second in the Octagonal after eight games.

A major problem was a pattern of struggling in the first half, which continued on Thursday. Despite a lot of opportunities, the USA were unable to score in the first half of their game against El Salvador in Columbus, where freezing temperatures didn’t deter La Selecta, and the solid backline held up.

The only goal came in the 52nd minute when Robinson found himself in the penalty area again and Jesus Ferreira‘s header bounces in front of him and blasts it past the El Salvador goalkeeper mario gonzales. The defense of El Salvador had lost sight of Robinson in a frenetic battle as she tried to defend Tim Weahwhose shot from close range from the right stopped Gonzalez.

“We call our fullbacks the superpower of our team,” said the American coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We do that because they produce; they provide assists and goals and if you look at World Cup qualifiers so far, our full-backs have made a big contribution.”

In addition to his two goals, Robinson had an assist on Brenden Aaronson‘s goal in the 1-1 draw with Canada. Sergino Desto‘s golazo – a rare first-half goal for the US – tied the score against Costa Rica in Columbus. Dest assisted in Weah’s goal credited as an own goal to win the game in Costa Rica, and his cross found Ricardo Pepic for the game winner in the 2-0 win over Jamaica.

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Robinson, 24, was born and raised in Liverpool and started at Everton Academy. But he never played for the first team of the Toffees, but was loaned out to Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic before being sold to Fulham in 2020. His career was not like that of teammates like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Sergino Destowho quickly became starters as a teenager at some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

He was eligible to play for the US through his father, Marlon Robinsonwho grew up in White Plains, New York, and played one season for Duke University in 1981 before an ankle injury ended his career.

After a tournament win in Norfolk, Virginia, in which Marlon Robinson scored the winner, Duke . coached John Rennie told Soccer America: “He’s primarily a left-footed player, but he’s very smooth, a huge raw talent. But he’s been overlooked in terms of the national youth teams – for whatever reason, I don’t know .”

Left back has been a problem position for the US for years. With his speed and attacking instincts, Robinson emerged as a candidate for the position in 2018 under interim coach Dave Sarachan, but then was in and out of the national team after Berhalter took over, playing in only two friendlies in two seasons. He went to the pre-Gold Cup camp in 2019 in Annapolis but played so badly that he was not retained for the tournament.

“I’ve been through highs and lows with the national team,” Robinson said after Thursday’s win. “I’ve been going through highs and lows in football ever since I signed a scholarship with Everton at 15, 16, whether it’s his injuries, being left out of the team. All players have to deal with that at some point. highs and lows, and I feel like I’m bouncing back from lows. I’m trying to keep a good mindset.”

Robinson started 24 games for Fulham in 2020-21, but were relegated from the Premier League. He has played very well this season for the Cottagers, who are five points clear of the English Championship after 27 games. That game has been handed over to the national team for which he has started in the last four home games, all wins. No other natural left-back was used for the winter window.

“At Fulham,” Berhalter said, “he’s in excellent form, he attacked and we asked him to do something similar. He’s used to that. He went up and down the field, he got some crosses he was able to put in. to come into the penalty area to score a goal.”

The success has brought new media attention to Robinson, a regular participant in the national team’s media calls.

“I feel weird being called Antonee,” he said. “I’d rather be called Jedi.”

He fell in love with the Star Wars movies from an early age and took the nickname Jedi, explaining that even teachers and coaches called him Jedi as a child.

As against Honduras, Robinson celebrated his goal against El Salvador by doing a somersault — this time a front somersault into a back spring, then added a twist as he pretended to cripple before driving off to celebrate more.

Said Weah, “He scared me a little because I thought he was pulling his hammy.”

Robinson explained that he saw a player take the step while touring Africa with Everton’s youth team.

“My boyfriend has been with me for weeks to celebrate that party, so I had to take it out,” he said. “I didn’t tell anyone, so a few people were scared. It’s all part of the fun of enjoying the game.”

Berhalter said he was more impressed with the fact that Robinson could even take the step than worrying about getting injured and banning the acrobatics.

“If a man scores like that and chooses to do that, who am I to forbid that? That’s an amazing physical feat,” said Berhalter, who was quick to add that he couldn’t do a backflip. “So congratulations to him for even being able to do that. I think it’s really impressive.”

Photo: John Todd/ISI Photos

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