Antonee Robinson celebrates his goal. (The Columbus Dispatch)
By Michael Lewis
Whether he has superpowers or a Jedi Master, Antonee Robinson has been one of the most unlikely heroes of the U.S. men’s national team during World Cup qualifying.
Outside backs traditionally aren’t known for their goal-scoring prowess, although the Fulham left back gets into the attack more often than not. Many observers felt right back Sergino Dest, who has scored some spectacular goals for Barcelona and the USMNT.
Very few observers outside of the team saw Robinson grabbing the spotlight as 24-year-old defender did in the Americans’ 1-0 win over El Salvador at Lower.com Field on Thursday night. Robinson tallied the lone goal of the match to keep the USA in second place in the Concacaf Octagonal, a point behind Canada.
It was Robinson’s second international and WCQ goal, having found the net in the 4-1 comeback win in Honduras in September.
“We call our fullbacks our superpower of our team,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We do that because they produce. They give assists and goals. If you look at World Cup qualifying so far, our fullbacks have contributed heavily.”
Berhalter then rattled of the names of Dest, DeAndre Yedlin and Robinson, who have scored or set up goals.
“Our fullbacks are great for us and they’re a big part of how we play,” he added.
Robinson has played an important part of a Fulham attack that has scored 22 goals in its past four games, all victories.
On Thursday night, it seemed he owned the left flank from one end of the pitch to the other, he overlapped so many times.
“He’s been in great form as well,” Berhalter said. “He’s been attacking. We asked him to do something very similar. He’s used to that. He got up and down the field. He got some good crosses, and he was able to arrive in the penalty box and score goals. We put an emphasis on our fullbacks arriving in the penalty box because we know we have that midfield line that’s supporting them and can clean up anything that comes out on top of the box.”
In the 52nd minute, Robinson cleaned up quite well himself inside the penalty area to give the Americans some much-needed spark. He Robinson slotted home Jesus Ferreira’s header pass from six yards past goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez for a 1-0 advantage.
“It was very similar to my goal against Honduras,” he said. “It sort of came across the box. It’s not been picked up well by the defenders. They’ve sort of not read the deflections and headers and stuff. I’ve been lucky to put myself in a good position. Then I’ll just try to keep my head down, put the ball far corner. Thankfully it went in.
“I was I was over the moon. It’s an unreal feeling. It’s the best feeling in football to score goals.”
Robinson also did not forget his “day job,” which was defending.
“It’s a mindset,” Berhalter said. “He knows that he needs to be relentless on the field. He needs to attack and defend. It’s not one or the other. It’s both and he understands that. He gets forward. His fitness is good enough to be able to get back.”
Late in the interview, Robinson revealed that he did not like being called Antonee.
His preferred name?
Yep. As in Jedi Master from Star Wars fame.
There is a reason. His Twitter handle is @Antonee_Jedi.
“I’ve been called Jedi since I was five,” Robinson said. “When I was really young, I was a big Star Wars fan. O used to love getting the costumes, the games. dressing up. watching the movies. It’s second nature to me ever since I was that age. I’ve been called Jedi. I’ve introduced myself to people as Jedi, school teachers, new friends. It’s just a part of me. That’s why it’s on my Instagram, Twitter.
“I feel weird being called Anthony prefer being called Jedi.”
After Thursday night’s performance, Robinson can be called anything he wants.
Right now, Jedi Master of goals sounds about right.