ATLANTA — Miles Robinson could not have asked for a smoother league debut.
Atlanta United’s first SuperDraft pick in club history, last year’s No. 2 overall selection, made his MLS debut in the Five Stripes’ 5-0 win over LAFC on Saturday evening. He was the only player in either team’s starting 11 without a single MLS minute to his name prior to kickoff, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell in the way he managed LAFC’s high-octane attack.
Robinson was as calm and unfazed speaking with the media after the match as he was on the pitch.
“I thought I did pretty well, and I’m happy to get the debut and happy we won; it was pretty good all around,” Robinson said. “When it gets down to it, it’s the same old soccer you played your whole life.”
Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst was always going to be key in organizing an inexperienced backline and he seemed to have a calming influence on Robinson, his center-back partner.
“Sometimes when maybe you have a little nerves, just getting a pass completed is all you need and then you’re back in it,” Robinson said.
Robinson’s challenge now is to break into the XI more often and to continue to seize his chances when they come along.
“Just the fact I got an opportunity to have a debut today means a lot and brings my confidence up,” he added. “I’m just going to keep moving forward.”
The 21-year-old misplaced only five passes all game, and showed one of his greatest qualities when he used his pace to track back and catch LAFC’s fleet-footed winger Diego Rossi on a break and prevent an open shot.
“Only since Marvell Wynne did I ever really see a guy that can track someone down and stop a 1v1 with the goalkeeper, and Miles has that ability,” Atlanta United defensive midfielder and league veteran Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com.
For Atlanta head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, Robinson has now proven he can handle the pace of the professional game. Now it’s a matter of building confidence.
“He did a great job defensively, but I think the game was set up for him to succeed today in a sense that we were playing further back and forced to defend, and he’s an excellent defender,” Martino said through a translator in his post-game press conference.
The path to more first-team minutes for Robinson is clear: Atlanta typically build possession out of the back, so defenders’ decision-making with the ball is crucial.
“I think with more experience comes more comfort,” Larentowicz added. “To get on the field more, I think that the way we like to play, with the ball at our feet, you have to make decisions on the ball. Those decisions are pret
ty important, but the more time and experience he gets better at that, I’m sure he’ll be pushing to get in the 11.”