Jedi Robinson has a personal motivation to summon the force for USA vs. England

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Doha, Qatar – jedi robinson He has been waiting for the game on Friday for months.

when the United States men’s team was placed in a group with England in the World Cup draw earlier this year, Robinson says he “couldn’t have been happier.” That’s because, for the starting USMNT left back, this is personal.

Robinson grew up in Liverpool, England, but was passed over by the Three Lions as a boy Everton‘s, which ultimately led to his joining the US national team and while Robinson had that childhood in England and now plays for the Premier leagueThe 25-year-old says he has no close friends in the England team and no family or friends with divided loyalties.

“Everyone will support me,” says Robinson. “No one will support England.”

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Antonee Robinson of the USA during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

Antonee Robinson of the USA during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
(Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

The Americans enter Friday’s game against World Cup favorites England (2 pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) with a little more pressure to finish in the top two in Group B after 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday. As underdogs, they’ll need the “Star Wars” fan who chose the nickname Jedi at age 5—a nickname she still prefers to her first name (“I feel weird being called Antonee”)—to summon the force against England.

“That means a lot to be able to play against [England] and show what I can do on that stage,” says Robinson, a dual citizen through his father, who played football at Duke and was his childhood coach. “That’s going to be awesome.”

Robinson was not the biggest star at Everton and dealt with injuries, which affected his minutes on the pitch. By the time he was 16, a time he calls the ‘make or break’ period of his early career, Robinson had not been called up to the England under-18 national team, being passed over in favor of ‘favourite boys’. , He says. The I was However, he was called up by Team USA and decided to take advantage of that opportunity.

“I was going through a time where I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to and I didn’t feel like one of the players that people seemed to think would do something for themselves in the game compared to others.” [English] players,” says Robinson. “That’s when the United States first contacted me. I received an under-18 call-up and never had a call-up for England.

“Getting called up to the US made me feel 10 feet tall and it’s greatly improved my confidence from there, especially coming back from injuries.”

United States player Antonee Robinson in action during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the United States and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

United States player Antonee Robinson in action during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the United States and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
(Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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After the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Robinson became part of the youth movement initially started by then-interim coach Dave Sarachan, who was rebuilding the team with rising talent. Around the same time, some of the biggest players on this team are playing in Qatar, including the captain. tyler adamsWalker Zimmerman and Weston McKennie also made their senior team debuts.

“It was huge for me to be called up at the time,” says Robinson, who earned his first cap for the senior team on March 28, 2018, when he played a full 90 minutes and provided an assist in a 3-0 win over Bolivia. .

“When I received the summons from the men [senior] national team,” he adds, “it was a no-brainer. He gave me hope as a player at the time.”

The England under-21 team eventually came close, but Robinson remained loyal to the USMNT.

Now with 30 appearances and two goals, Robinson has become one of the most important and valuable members of this American team. He’s the only true left back on Gregg Berhalter’s list, and the first the USMNT has had in a long time. He is left-handed by nature and plays on the same side of the field as Christian Pulisicwho often cuts to the inside, allowing Robinson to open up, make runs and send out dangerous crosses.

Timothy Weah of the USA celebrates scoring with teammate Antonee Robinson during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

Timothy Weah of the USA celebrates scoring with teammate Antonee Robinson during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
(Visionhaus/Getty Images)

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Due to a minor injury, Robinson missed the September friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Japan – the 2022 World Cup Cinderella first teams that have pulled off the biggest upsets yet with victories over world powerhouses Argentina and Germany, respectively. Berhalter started Sam Vines, who recently broke his leg and did not make the 26-man World Cup squad, against Japan and Sergino Dest, who usually plays at right-back, against Saudi Arabia. In Qatar, Dest and Joe Scally would be substitute options on the left side should Robinson not play the full 90 minutes.

Lack of depth at left back has been a persistent problem for the US since Frankie Hejduk at the 2002 World Cup, making Robinson all the more critical. Hejduk, who was a right midfielder at the 1998 World Cup, was converted to a left back at the 2002 tournament because the Americans had no stronger options. The same was true of midfielder Eddie Lewis, who delivered the cross for Landon Donovan’s goal in a 2-0 round of 16 win over Mexico at the 2002 World Cup, but played left-back four years later. Ditto for Jonathan Bornstein in 2010 and DaMarcus Beasley in 2014, although he later accepted the position change as it helped prolong his national team career.

Since his call up to the USMNT, Robinson’s career has risen steadily. He is a regular starter at Fulham, where he helped the club win the EFL Championship and gain promotion back to the Premier League for the 2022-23 season. He played a key role for the USA in qualifying, playing 13 of 14 games during the Octagon. He scored two critical goals, the first an equalizer in a 4-1 win in Honduras in September 2021 and the second the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win against El Salvador in January. He celebrated those goals, as he always does, with backflips.

His girlfriend hates him and worries he’s going to break his neck, he says, but “Unfortunately, I’m confident, so I’ll do it.”

“It’s one of those muscle memory things,” adds Robinson, whose other talents include playing the piano, the ability to solve a Rubik’s cube and card tricks. “I just know that I can do it. It’s all part of the fun of enjoying the game for me.”

As the England game approaches, Robinson isn’t the only American player with a personal bet. yunus musah and Cameron Carter-Vickers were also born in England and are now facing their home country in a World Cup.

Antonee Robinson of the USA prepares to shoot during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

Antonee Robinson of the USA prepares to shoot during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between the USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
(Visionhaus/Getty Images)

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“It’s a special game for sure,” Musah said this week.

But for his part, Robinson would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little more motivated for the England game.

“I want to win every game,” he says, “but I think I want to win them more than anyone.”

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