DOHA, Qatar — Jedi Robinson has been awaiting Friday’s match for months.
When the United States men’s national team was positioned into a gaggle with England within the World Cup draw earlier this yr, Robinson says he “couldn’t have been happier.” That’s as a result of, for the beginning left again for the USMNT, this one is private.
Robinson grew up in Liverpool, England, however was missed by the Three Lions when he was a child arising via Everton’s academy, which in the end led him to affix the U.S. nationwide staff as a substitute. And although Robinson had that childhood in England and now performs within the Premier League, the 25-year-old says he doesn’t have any shut associates on the English nationwide staff nor any household or associates with divided loyalties.
“They’ll all be rooting for me,” Robinson says. “No person can be supporting England.”
The People enter Friday’s match towards England, one of many World Cup favorites (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities App), underneath barely extra strain to complete within the prime two of Group B after a 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday. As underdogs, they’ll want the”Star Wars” fan who selected the nickname Jedi at 5 years previous — a nickname he nonetheless prefers to his given title (“I really feel bizarre being referred to as Antonee”) — to summon the drive towards England.
“Which means so much to have the ability to play towards [England] and present what I can do on that stage,” says Robinson, a dual-citizen via his father, who performed soccer at Duke and was his childhood coach. “That’s gonna be wonderful.”
Robinson wasn’t the largest star at Everton and handled accidents, which impacted his minutes on the sphere. When he was 16, a time he calls the “make-or-break” interval of his early profession, Robinson had not been referred to as into England’s U18 nationwide staff, getting bypassed in favor of the “favourite guys,” he says. He was referred to as in by Group USA, nevertheless, and determined to make the most of that chance.
“I used to be going via a time the place I wasn’t enjoying as a lot as I wished to and it didn’t really feel like I used to be one of many gamers that individuals appeared to suppose would make one thing of themselves within the recreation in comparison with different [English] gamers,” Robinson says. “That’s when the States first reached out to me. I obtained a U18 call-up and I by no means obtained a call-up for England.
“To get referred to as up for the U.S. simply made me really feel 10-feet tall and improved my confidence so much from there, particularly getting back from accidents.”
After the USMNT didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Robinson turned a part of the youth motion initially ushered in by then-interim coach Dave Sarachan, who was rebuilding the squad with rising expertise. Across the identical time, a few of the most necessary gamers on this squad enjoying in Qatar – together with captain Tyler Adams, Walker Zimmerman and Weston McKennie – additionally made their senior nationwide staff debuts.
“It was huge for me to get referred to as up at the moment,” Robinson says, who earned his first senior staff cap on March 28, 2018, when he performed a full 90 minutes and had an help in a 3-0 win over Bolivia.
“After I obtained the call-up from the boys’s [senior] nationwide staff,” he provides, “it was a no brainer. It impressed hope in me as a participant on the time.”
England’s U21 staff ultimately reached out, however Robinson remained loyal to the USMNT.
Now with 30 caps and two objectives, Robinson has developed into one of the vital necessary and useful members of this American squad. He’s the one true left again on Gregg Berhalter’s roster, and the primary one the USMNT has had in fairly a while. He’s naturally left-footed and performs on the identical aspect of the sphere as Christian Pulisic, who usually cuts inside, permitting Robinson to get extensive, make runs and ship in harmful crosses.
Resulting from a minor damage, Robinson missed the September friendlies towards Saudi Arabia and Japan — the 2022 World Cup’s early Cinderella groups who’ve pulled off the largest upsets to this point with wins over international powerhouses Argentina and Germany, respectively. Berhalter began Sam Vines, who lately broke his leg and didn’t make the 26-man World Cup roster, towards Japan and Sergino Dest, who extra usually performs proper again, towards Saudi Arabia. In Qatar, Dest and Joe Scally can be substitute choices on the left aspect ought to Robinson not play a full 90 minutes.
Lack of depth at left again has been a persistent problem for the U.S., going all the best way again to Frankie Hejduk within the 2002 World Cup, making Robinson all of the extra important. Hejduk, who was a right-footed midfielder within the 1998 World Cup, was transformed to left again within the 2002 match as a result of the People didn’t have stronger choices. The identical factor occurred to midfielder Eddie Lewis, who delivered the cross on Landon Donovan’s purpose in a 2-0 Spherical of 16 victory over Mexico on the 2002 World Cup however performed left again 4 years later. Identical for Jonathan Bornstein in 2010 and DaMarcus Beasley in 2014, although he later embraced the place change because it helped lengthen his nationwide staff profession.
Since his call-up to the USMNT, Robinson’s profession has steadily risen. He’s an everyday starter at Fulham, the place he helped the membership win the EFL Championship and promotion again to the Premier League for the 2022-23 season. He performed a key position for the U.S. in qualifying, enjoying 13 of 14 matches throughout the Octagonal. He scored two important objectives, the primary an equalizer in a 4-1 win at Honduras in September 2021 and the second being the profitable purpose in a 1-0 victory towards El Salvador in January. He celebrated these objectives, as he at all times does, with again flips.
His girlfriend hates it and worries he’ll break his neck, he says, however, “Sadly, I’m assured so I’m going to do it.”
“It’s a kind of muscle-memory issues,” provides Robinson, whose different skills embrace enjoying piano, the power to resolve a Rubik’s dice and card methods. “I simply know I can do it. It’s all a part of the enjoyable in having fun with the sport for me.”
Because the England match approaches, Robinson isn’t the one U.S. participant with a private stake. Yunus Musah and Cameron Carter-Vickers had been additionally born in England and are actually dealing with their house nation in a World Cup.
“It’s a particular recreation, for positive,” Musah mentioned this week.
However for his half, Robinson can be mendacity if he mentioned he wasn’t slightly additional motivated for the England match.
“I need to win each recreation,” he says, “however I do need to beat them greater than anybody, I feel.”