MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Miles Robinson shares favorite Atlanta United-Orlando City rivalry memories, Olympic hopes

Miles Robinson – Atlanta United – tight shot

By way of results, Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson has only fond memories in the club's rivalry with Orlando City SC, in which Atlanta is unbeaten in nine matches across all competitions.

By way of atmosphere, it may be the testy exchanges with Lions fans in Exploria Stadium that have left the most vivid impression, from — let's call it colorful — chanting aimed at former Lion Justin Meram on his return, to other intimidation tactics that come part and parcell with derby matches." 

“Those are definitely some of my most memorable moments," Robinson told "We’re very successful against Orlando. Any win against them are my favorite. ... Their fans are definitely emotional, but they make it interesting when we’re out there.”

The exchange he savored most, though, involved Josef Martinez setting an MLS record and getting the better of 'keeper Joe Bendik.

Martinez was one goal away from setting a new league record for single-season goals in 2018 (which was since broken by Carlos Vela last year). The fixture list ever so generously gave him the opportunity to do so in Orlando, his chief rivals. 

“When Josef scored his record against Orlando and was looking down at Bendik, it was because (Bendik) was talking trash the whole game," Robinson said. "When Josef scored and did that I remember sitting back and was like ‘oh my god!’  When Josef looked down at him like, 'What do you have to say?' That’s one of my favorite moments.”

Bendik was one of many keepers trying to get an edge on Martinez. 

“A lot of the keepers in the league try to get under his skin but I don’t think that’s a smart decision," Robinson said. "But, you know, it happens. Josef will do anything to score in every game but if he has the keeper talking to him as well, that adds a little fuel to the fire.”

Robinson enjoyed a breakout 2019 season in which he finished third in MLS Defender of the Year voting as well as being named to the MLS Best XI. His meteoric rise from bench to the club's defensive anchor also saw him earn his US national team debut. 

He was age-eligible for Olympic qualifying, though wasn't part of the team in March because of Atlanta opted not to release him for the qualifying tournament, which was ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He's still holding out hope if the group eventually qualifies for the Olympics. 

“You always want to represent your country when you can, but it’s obviously not my decision," Robinson said. "It’s up to the club. I think the club are looking to get the best out of their players, they are paying me and whatnot. But I love those (national team) guys, I’m really good friends with all those guys. It’s sad to see qualifying couldn’t take place but I was definitely hoping to see them qualify and then maybe I’d get a chance at the Olympics.

“There’s always dialogue between me and Atlanta, but it’s Atlanta’s decision," Robinson added. "There’s only so much I could say. Whatever happens, happens. I’d love to be apart of the Olympics, that’d be amazing. Hopefully next year there’s still an opportunity for me to do that.”