The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is seven months away. After missing out on the 2018 tournament, the United States Men’s National Team is back participating in the global soccer tournament. The USMNT will need to fire on all cylinders in November to get out of the Group Stage. However, that task just got more complicated with the devastating injury to Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson.
Miles Robinson is one of the best American centerbacks
Miles Robinson is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound central defender from Arlington, Massachusetts. After a starring career at Syracuse, MLS’s Atlanta United selected the CB No. 2 overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
As the first-ever draft pick of the expansion Atlanta franchise, Robinson became a full-time starter in 2019. He started 33 or 34 games that season, made the MLS Best XI at the end of the year, and set a club record, playing 2,978 minutes, per AtlUtd.com.
After a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, Robinson became one of the best defenders in the league during the 2021 campaign. He again made the MLS Best XI and his first MLS All-Star team.
Robinson also played a major role in helping the USMNT qualify for the 2022 World Cup. He has 15 caps for the USA and has scored three goals.
The 25-year-old CB started the last five games of the U.S.’s Concacaf qualifying run and, along with Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman, has made up the spine of a USMNT defense that’s allowed just three goals in its last five matches.
Robinson also started eight of nine Atlanta United contests so far in the 2022 MLS season.
Robinson will likely miss the remainder of the MLS season and the 2022 World Cup
In a massive blow to both the USMNT and Atlanta United, Miles Robinson ruptured his Achilles tendon in his team’s 4-1 victory against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Fourteen minutes into the game, Robinson headed a ball down around midfield and passed the ball to a teammate before collapsing in a heap. The prognosis is a ruptured left Achilles tendon which required surgery and will keep him out for the remainder of the MLS season and probably force him to miss the World Cup as well.
Just two days after the injury, Robinson took to Twitter to post pictures of himself on the turf being attended to by trainers and in a hospital bed, giving a thumbs-up sign. The star defender wrote, “Day one of the comeback starts today! I’ll be back…BELIEVE THAT.”
Robinson is the third Atlanta United player to rupture an Achilles this season, joining goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Dylan Castanheira. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is also out for the season with a torn ACL.
The injury is devastating news for Robinson on a personal level and for his club and country squads.
Who will replace the star in central defense?
Atlanta United is currently in seventh place — the last playoff slot — in the Eastern Conference. With the transfer window closed until July 7, United’s options for replacing Miles Robinson in the immediate are limited.
Veteran defender Alex De John and 20-year-old prospect George Campbell will fill the void next to Robinson’s usual partner, Alan Franco.
For the USMNT, the question of who will fill Robinson’s shoes next to Walker Zimmerman is a little more complicated.
During the last group of World Cup qualifiers, the center backs on the roster, in addition to Robinson and Zimmerman, were Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls, MLS), Erik Palmer-Brown (ES Troyes AC, France), James Sands (NYCFC, MLS, on loan to Rangers, Scotland).
Sands and Palmer-Brown are inexperienced at a national team level, but the 30-year-old Long could be an option.
Additionally, three players left off the last USMNT roster could factor into manager Gregg Berhalter’s plans.
Chris Richards (1899 Hoffenheim, on loan to Bayern Munich, Germany) would have been on the previous depth chart if not for an ankle injury. He is the most likely replacement for Robinson if he can stay healthy.
John Brooks (Vfl Wolfsburg, Germany) played for the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup but has been out of favor since Berhalter took over. Also, 23-year-old Mark McKenzie is playing well at Genk in Belgium and could become an option as well.
U.S. fans will get their first hint at what Berhalter plans to do to replace Robinson when the USMNT takes on Morocco on June 1 in an international friendly.