Antonee Robinson celebrated his goal for the United States with an acrobatic backflip, followed by a forward spring and then a feigned leg injury.
A memorable celebration for a player who carries a galactic name.
“It’s weird to be called Antonee. I’d rather be called Jedi,” the self-proclaimed “Star Wars” fan said afterwards.
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American fans will nonetheless praise Robinson’s athleticism – and his nickname – as his effort saw the USMNT win 1-0 over El Salvador in World Cup qualifiers on a frigid Thursday night in Columbus, Ohio.
After a scoreless first half, Robinson wasted no time in breaking the deadlock early in the second half, jumping a loose ball on the back post in the 52nd minute and hammering a low volley past El Salvador goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez.
The narrow win on a 29-degree night at Lower.com Field took the US to 18 points with five games left in the qualifying window. The US is one point behind Canada. Mexico has 17, followed by Panama (14), Costa Rica (12), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six) and Honduras (three).
The Futbol Americas squad reacts to the USMNT’s 1-0 victory over El Salvador in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers.
“We are very happy with the win, which we have prepared for. It was not the best game. And there were times when we played good football, when we just had to take our chances,” Robinson said afterwards. the match. “One step closer to our goal, qualifying for the World Cup.”
The US is in Canada on Sunday, hosting Honduras on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Qualifying concludes in March with travel to Mexico and Costa Rica around a meeting with Panama in Orlando, Florida. The top three CONCACAF countries will qualify for Qatar 2022 and the team in fourth place will advance to a play-off against the champions of Oceania, likely New Zealand.
On a night when the USMNT’s offensive prowess of the likes of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie fell short, it was English-born Fulham defender Robinson who delivered the goal for the crucial win.
Gregg Berhalter praised Robinson’s versatility in his full-back position, requiring him to contribute on both the defensive and attacking fronts.
“We call our fullbacks the superpower of our team. We do that because they produce, give assists and goals,” said Berhalter. “We put emphasis on our full-backs arriving in the penalty area because we know we have that midfield line that supports them and can clear anything that comes out of the penalty area.”
Regarding his acrobatic antics to celebrate the goal, Robinson said it’s something his second nature.
“I don’t do backflips anymore. It’s just one of those muscle memory things. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, so I just know I can do it.”
And what about the feigned injury?
Robinson said he was mimicking a Kenyan player he saw when he played for Everton’s youth team in Africa as a teenager in Africa.
“My boyfriend has been celebrating that party for weeks, so I had to take it out,” Robinson said. “I didn’t tell anyone, so a few people were scared. It’s all part of the fun of enjoying the game.”
The move initially caused concern among his teammates.
“He scared me a little because I thought he was pulling his hammy,” winger Timothy Weah joked.
The Americans’ 15th home win over El Salvador since 1989 didn’t come easy. They defeated El Salvador 8-3 in the first half, but didn’t put anyone on target. But the offense followed a well-known pattern: the US scored 11 of 13 goals in World Cup qualifiers in the second half of the matches.
“I think we could have done a lot better. The big picture of this match, we are still in a very good position in World Cup qualifiers. The three points were vital at home and we achieved that” Berhalter added.
“So glad it’s now time to regroup and come up with a plan to attack Canada.”