One of the big question marks coming into this weekend’s match against LAFC was how Tata Martino would line up his defense. With Leandro González Pirez suspended and Franco Escobar injured, the coach decided to bring in Miles Robinson for his MLS debut. Martino said last week that Robinson was “absolutely” ready for first-team minutes, but there were some pre-match jitters for last year’s MLS SuperDraft selection.
“I think sometimes when you have a little nerves, just getting a pass completed is all you need and then you're back in it,” Robinson said after the game. “When it gets down to it, it is the same old soccer (that) you've played your whole life.”
It didn’t take long for Robinson to settle in, stepping in with a rock solid performance to help secure a second consecutive clean sheet against one of the most potent attacks in the league so far this year.
“It’s not easy to come in and kind of just fill the gap, but he did a tremendous job,” said his fellow 2017 SuperDraft pick, Julian Gressel. “I think he kept it simple when he had to and tried some things when he could and defended well. That's what he's all about, so I think he'll go and have a long MLS career.”
With LAFC cognizant of a new face in the lineup, ATL UTD’s #12 stood tall under the pressure. And it certainly caught the eye of his teammates, particularly Brad Guzan, who said Robinson made his job easy on Saturday.
“He was fantastic,” Guzan said. “I told him, ‘You didn’t put a foot wrong.’ I thought he was great. Probably, obviously, the play that stands out is in the first half when he makes a recovery run and gets on the other side of (Diego) Rossi … So, what can you say? For his debut, he was great.”
That play was a crucial moment in the match. With the score still just 1-0, speedy Uruguayan Diego Rossi got behind the Atlanta United defense for a potential one-on-one opportunity with Guzan in the Atlanta United goal. But Robinson put his speed and athleticism on display to get back and put out the fire before Rossi could get a shot off. It was a vital play that stood out to MLS veteran Jeff Larentowicz.
“Only since [former teammate] Marvell Wynne have I seen a guy that could track someone down and stop a one versus one with the goalkeeper and Miles has that ability,” Larentowicz said. “Nothing went down his side, defensively he was great. He did exactly what we thought he could do and that we hoped he could do.”
And for Larentowicz, who knows what it takes to earn your minutes in MLS, he says it was a great first step for a player who’s still just 21 years of age.
“He’s trying to do the easy things and make sure he does those right (and) plays to his strengths. In one-versus-one defending, not getting beat in behind, it’s kind-of what he did and he shut that side down.”
As for Robinson himself, he was happy with his debut, but was typically humble and restrained, ready to build on that for more in the future.
“I did pretty well. I'm happy to get the debut, and I'm happy we won. So, pretty good all around.”
Atlanta United now gets back to the training pitch for another crucial match this coming weekend against unbeaten NYCFC. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’re there for the top-of-the-table clash by securing your tickets here.