AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Antonee Robinson nicknamed himself Jedi as a child and pursued the goal that triggered the USA’s comeback against Honduras with a backflip that would have fit into a “Star Wars” duel.
“It’s a celebration I’ve wanted to do for a while, to be honest,” he recalled Tuesday. “The emotions somehow conquered me. It was my first goal for the national team. It was at such a great moment. It was just the first thing that crossed my mind to celebrate like I did when I was a kid. “
As a 24-year-old Fulham defender, England, Robinson could solve a long-standing problem position for the US national team that fought for a left upper-back for decades. After the start of the World Cup qualification with a 0-0 win in El Salvador, a 1-1 at home against Canada and a 4-1 win in Honduras, the Americans meet more qualifiers in the first of three in Jamaica on Thursday evening within seven days .
Robinson started the middlegame last month after kicking off in the 64th minute when Sergiño Dest tugged on the left. The Americans fell behind in Honduras when coach Gregg Berhalter opened with a 3-4-3 formation with George Bello as left full-back and Tyler Adams – usually a central midfielder – right-winger. Robinson was among the three changes early in the second half when the US returned to a 4-3-3.
Robinson equalized the score with a right-footed volley from 8 yards after a Ricardo Pepi backheel pass.
“I spoke to him and it was not an easy conversation,” said Berhalter. “I explained to him that he would come in and make a difference from the bank. We wanted George to start the game. I thought he had an amazing game against Canada. But I talked to him about his role in this game and how we’re going to involve him to make a difference, and he did. “
Robinson grew up in Liverpool, which his accent is easy to tell. His father Marlon was born in England, grew up in White Plains, New York, and was on Duke’s football team from 1981-84.
Antonee joined Everton Youth Academy when he was 11 years old.
On loan to Bolton, he made his professional debut in the League Cup on August 9, 2017. He joined Fulham for 2020-21, made his Premier League debut and played alongside American center-back Tim Ream. He impressed in his first US appearance against Bolivia in May 2018, setting up Tim Weah’s goal on a night that Josh Sargent also made his debut.
Berhalter used 22 players in the first three qualifying games, 21 of them starters. Only Adams and center-back Miles Robinson played every minute.
It is not yet clear whether Robinson will be able to travel to Panama for Sunday’s game or be blocked by UK government travel restrictions that would require quarantine on return to England. The US player pool on left-back is not large – Dest was better on the right, Sam Vines is out of camp and Berhalter said it was too early to call up Joe Scally, an 18-year-old who was transferred to on the left and played 90 minutes in all seven Bundesliga games this season for Borussia Mönchengladbach.
“We have a strong enough squad to switch the lads to bring the lads onto the field without losing quality,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “We have to face the challenge. We have to face the travel conditions, the short break and keep going. “
Robinson scored his first Fulham goal against Birmingham in the League Cup on August 24. The Cottagers were relegated last season, and Robinson found himself on a team battling for promotion – Fulham are fifth after eleven games – instead of relegating to avoid relegation.
“It’s definitely a change of mindset,” he said. “The expectations of us and our squad are, of course, to be promoted again immediately. … It’s a nice feeling to go into a game, the feeling that everyone is confident that we can win. And it’s a similar sign here when we get to the states, we’re expected to qualify, we’re supposed to be one of the better teams. At the same time, I have the feeling that it’s the games that motivate all the other teams. All the other CONCACAF teams that are currently qualifying with us will watch games against us and think: ‘This is our moment to prove what a good team we are.’ “
After the Reggae Boyz in Auston, the USA will play in Panama on Sunday and then meet Costa Rica on October 13 in Columbus, Ohio.
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