MARIETTA, Ga. – In a season that has had its fair share of tumult for reigning champions Atlanta United, one undisputed shining light for the Five Stripes has been the progression of Miles Robinson, a 22-year-old center back who is breaking through as a regular starter for the first time at the professional level.
Robinson is doing much more than simply logging minutes. He’s thriving under coach Frank de Boer, a legendary Dutch defender in his own playing days – and soccer experts around the country are taking notice.
“I think the fact that he’s locked down a starting role, and especially a starting role for Atlanta United, is a testament to how good he is,” former US men's national team defender Alexi Lalas told MLSsoccer.com. “At a young age, he provides Atlanta a consistency of quality that is incredibly valuable to a coach and players. His physical and his tactical abilities and decisions continue to improve, and I think he has the potential to be one of the best defenders in MLS.”
If the Syracuse University and Boston Bolts product does reach that stage, he’ll be in the discussion as one who could represent his country at the highest level. In fact, those conversations have already started after USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter named Robinson to his preliminary squad ahead of this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup.
“If he progresses from year one to year two as a starter, then the USMNT [is in Robinson's future],” ESPN’s Taylor Twellman told MLSsoccer.com. “The fact this is only his first season as a starter and he's playing this well, I’d be shocked if he isn’t on the radar of Europe soon.”
Robinson’s ascension is remarkable considering as a rookie in 2017, he didn’t play a single minute for the first team under Tata Martino. He and midseason acquisition Bobby Boswell toiled together, training as Martino relied on the likes of Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. And yet, even then Robinson stood out as a special talent.
“In training, he's probably the best one-on-one defender ever — that I've ever seen,” Boswell told MLSsoccer.com. “No one could get around him. Miguel Almiron couldn't, Josef [Martinez] couldn't, Tito [Villalba] couldn't. He's very talented, very gifted in his ability to stop guys one-on-one.”
Ask around Atlanta’s locker room, and you'll hear similar sentiments from other veteran players. It was just his work on the ball that needed refining.
“Those times when I was training with him, we were in a tough spot, man. Doing all this fitness and never getting first-team reps,” said Boswell. “This guy just put his head down and went to work every day. He didn't complain. He didn't mumble under his breath. He showed up every day ready to go to work and get better.”
That hard work is paying off, and the improvement is clear. The only question left unanswered is how far and how quickly his star will continue to rise.