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U-23 defender Miles Robinson discusses YNT friendlies and his development

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The Atlanta United center back is getting his chance

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 MLS Super Draft was fairly fruitful. Jeremey Ebobisse was drafted by the Portland Timbers, Jonathan Lewis went to NYCFC, Jacori Hayes went to FC Dallas, and Atlanta United drafted Julian Gressel and Miles Robinson. While Gressel has had the biggest impact in MLS of those players, his teammate Miles Robinson is coming into his own in 2019.

Speaking to reporters in Atlanta yesterday, the youngster talked about growing as a player in a little more than two years in MLS, saying “I’ve been trying to improve day in and day out for the past two and a half years and that’s what I think I’ve been doing. I’m happy to have gotten a chance to display what I have so far this season.”

Robinson’s growing role has come with some ups and downs. In 2018 he made his debut for Atlanta in a dominant 5-0 win over LAFC, but then took a step back by giving up a penalty to Bradley Wright-Phillips in a critical game for the Five Stripes. He would also appear off the bench as Atlanta held a 2-1 lead over FC Dallas only to lose 3-2 after a miscommunication between Robinson and defender Mikey Ambrose led to a game-tying goal.

Things seemed to start to click for the defender in a standout defensive performance against NYCFC in the playoffs helping Atlanta advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Asked how the veteran presence of Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz has helped improve his ability to see the game, Robinson noted that “obviously watching them day in and day out can help, but it’s a matter of getting in games and implementing what you’ve seen them do. That just comes with experience and I think the more games I play the better I’ll become.”

His club team play led to a call up in the first U-23 camp of the year as the younger side prepares for Olympic qualifying under new manager Jason Kreis. That camp included a 2-0 loss to Egypt in which 22 of 23 US players saw the field with Robinson coming on as a sub in the 46th minute. The second match was more promising for the team as they held the Netherlands to a 0-0 draw. Robinson started that game and played 75 minutes, though he did collect a yellow card.

The team had a short time to prepare under the new manager who was named just three days prior to the friendly against Egypt. Robinson noted that the goals for the exhibitions were not as focused on the results, telling reporters “it was more about getting to know each other at this stage and knowing his coaching style and what he wants to implement as a team - and just individually getting to know the coach and all the players around us together.”

While he has impressed Frank de Boer and found his way to the U-23s, Robinson is keeping things in perspective. The 22 year-old may one day play for the senior team, but for now he says “it was just one camp, eventually they have Olympic qualifiers and the Olympics but that’s a long way from now.”

At the moment, the youth national teams are preparing for a big summer with preparations for the U-20 World Cup and U-23 camps ahead of Olympic qualification. While the Olympics may be a tournament that doesn’t get much attention on the men’s side, qualifying will at least say something about the quality of young players that the USMNT has coming up ahead of the 2022 and 2026 World Cups. Obviously qualification is far from assured and the U-23s will need to both hope that club teams release key players and that Jason Kreis is the man for the job after being let go by both of his last two MLS teams.

This is the most talented crop of Olympic eligible players to emerge in one if not more generations and the friendlies last week were the first in a series of steps that could indicate what is to come for this World Cup cycle and beyond. It’s early still, but Miles Robinson may end up being a central figure in that process.