Atlanta United’s Robinson a rock for U.S. men in Gold Cup

U.S. defender Miles Robinson (left) Martinique forward Johnny Marajo go up for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match in Kansas City, Kan., Thursday, July 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Credit: AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

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U.S. defender Miles Robinson (left) Martinique forward Johnny Marajo go up for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match in Kansas City, Kan., Thursday, July 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Credit: AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

Miles Robinson has been arguably the best and most consistent player for the U.S. men’s national team during the ongoing Gold Cup.

Robinson, a centerback who plays for Atlanta United in MLS, is part of a group that has allowed a tournament-low one goal through four games. It will play Qatar on Thursday in Austin, Texas, in the tournament semifinals.

“I’m hoping that I’ll keep working hard and competing and going as far as possible with this group,” he said Tuesday.

Robinson has started each of the four games. He’s the only centerback to do that. He’s won 35 duels, made seven tackles and completed at least 90 percent of his passes in three of the four games.

Former Atlanta United teammates Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz have described Robinson as the best one-on-one defender they’ve seen in MLS, and Robinson put all of his skills to use in the last game against Jamaica.

First, he single-handedly broke up a goal-scoring chance with a tough but well-timed tackle with his weaker left foot just yards from goal. The tackle was important because it kept the game scoreless.

A few minutes later, Robinson won an aerial duel near midfield that gave the U.S. the ball. The possession ended with Matthew Hoppe scoring the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win.

“He’s really grown into this tournament since the first game,” teammate Sebastian Lletget said Tuesday. “It’s a tough role to play centerback at this level. We’ve really been able to rely on him.”

Robinson said playing in important games for Atlanta United, and in front of large crowds at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, helped prepare him for the intensity of the tournament’s knockout games.

“Big games bring an extra motivational factor for me, and I get dialed in,” he said.

The appearances bring Robinson’s total with the U.S. men’s team to seven in his developing career. He said he’s trying not to think about whether he’s doing enough to be considered for selection by Gregg Berhalter when the Americans playing in Europe are considered for selection.

“It’s about trying to do my job in the time being,” he said. “Hopefully if we continue to win, good things will happen.”

While Robinson has been with the U.S., he wasn’t in Atlanta for the drama that unfolded with the firing of manager Gabriel Heinze and the promotion of assistant Rob Valentino to interim manager.

“Everyone has full faith in him,” said Robinson, who said he has spoken to Valentino since his promotion.

Robinson has watched the two games managed by Valentino and said he sees a more aggressive team and said it’s something the team continues to do. Atlanta United will play at Orlando on Friday night.

If the U.S. beats Qatar on Thursday, it will play the winner of the other semifinal featuring Mexico and Canada in Sunday’s championship game. Robinson will re-join Atlanta United whenever the U.S. play in the tournament ends.

“Whenever I get back there I’m looking forward to competing with my teammates,” he said.