Sunday, May 22, 2022

USMNT roster: Miles Robinson Achilles tear could be a critical blow to USA and Atlanta United

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USATSI

It’s reaching a point where head coach Gonzalo Pineda could build a whole starting lineup of players who aren’t available following Miles Robinson’s injury during Atlanta United’s 4-1 victory over the Chicago Fire Saturday night. Robinson went down in the 18th minute with a non-contact injury and was replaced by Alex DeJohn. After the match Pineda said that Robinson would be undergoing a scan on his Achilles tendon, and CBS Sports Roger Gonzalez reports that Robinson is set for surgery on Monday to repair a tear.

That means that Robinson will join Brad Guzan in being out for the season thanks to Achilles injuries and it would also likely remove Robinson from World Cup contention for the United States men’s national team as the recovery time for the injury is generally six to nine months and that’s not including rehab to get back to playing shape. It would be a brutal blow to one of the most important defenders for the United States and Atlanta United.

Pineda is already working on how to replace the injured Josef Martinez and while Ronaldo Cisneros’ hat trick against the Fire helps, the club has also been linked with a move for Matthew Hoppe to bolster their attacking options. When it comes to replacing Robinson though, things are a lot tougher. 

Robinson has been a key player both defending in the air and on the ground, and while DeJohn would be a fine short term replacement, the loss could be too much to cope with for the five stripes’ defense alongside Guzan. With the transfer window for MLS now closed, new additions can’t be made until July. By then, Atlanta will know the scope of their situation and will likely press for defensive reinforcements. 

What does this mean for the USMNT?

Gregg Berhalter’s job just got a lot harder as center back was one position where the starters were close to locked in for the World Cup. Robinson’s injury means that the left sided spot next to Walker Zimmerman is now up for grabs during this summer. There are no perfect options, but a number of players are viable candidates.

The likely replacement would be Chris Richards. Richards is a natural right footed defender but he has deputized on the left side of defense or at left back in the past so he can play there in a pinch. If Berhalter prefers a natural left footer, Aaron Long would be a natural fit, and a somewhat poetic one, as he has returned to form with the New York Red Bulls after his own Achilles injury. Mark McKenzie is a long shot as he has struggled for playing time since his move to Genk but with plenty of time between now and November, these situations can change quickly. 

It’s unfortunate both for Robinson who was on track for a European move sooner than later and the national team as the left side of the defense is one of the most shallow positions in the team. At this point, any defender with a good run could make the World Cup so hopefully players can see this as an opportunity to step up.

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