Just one year ago, Antonee Robinson was far from the U.S. Men’s National Team radar. The English-born fullback was pushing his way through the Everton academy, fighting for his chance with a senior team.
Now a Championship regular following a move to Bolton Wanderers, Robinson faces a similar fight with the USMNT, and the 20-year-old fullback is ready to prove himself as he takes another step up.
“If I was ever going to get called up, it’d be a massive chance,” Robinson said, according to USSoccer.com. “I’ve seen a lot of U.S. fans tweeting at me saying ‘We need a left back’. I know it’s up for the taking. This is a big country with a bright future. I’m glad I’ve got the chance to make an impression now.”
“It’s been really good,” he added. “It’s really professional the way it’s carried out. You have a lot of freedom from the coaching staff to do what you want in your spare time because we’re all professionals. The standard of training is the highest standard I’ve ever trained at. It’s really good.”
The past year has been full of new standards for Robinson. The fullback, who entered Everton’s academy at age 11 and signed his first professional deal at 17, went out on loan to Bolton this past August. He’d been a part of preseason tours with the Premier League club throughout his years but, after suffering a knee injury in his professional debut in 2015, it was time for him to earn legitimate first team minutes.
They’ve come at Bolton. After starting the season in an open competition for the left back spot, Robinson has made 25 appearances for the club in what has been his breakout season.
“I think every young player needs minutes at a men’s level. In my first season, I’ve done alright,” Robinson said. “I started a bit shaky because you’re not sure what to expect in your first season. I’ve grown. I’ve acclimated to the league, and I think I’ve become a better player for it.”
Now, Robinson joins the U.S. Soccer program for the first time since 2014, when he featured in a pair of friendlies at the U-18 level. Much has changed since his only true American soccer experience, and he’s looking to now seize his chance.
At the left back position, Robinson will face competition from the likes of Jorge Villafana, the incumbent starter, as well as the versatile Eric Lichaj and MLS regulars like Greg Garza, Brandon Vincent and Justin Morrow. At 20, though, Robinson is the youngest of the contenders.
The Bolton fullback is one of five players looking to make his USMNT debut when the team takes on Paraguay on Tuesday and, if it does happen, Robinson will hope to make the most of a chance that seemed very far away just months ago.
“The main strength (of the current team) lies in the quality and composure of the players,” Robinson said. “We all want to play football and we all trust each other with touch and passing It’s been really good.
“It’s definitely a big game. All of the young lads are looking to make a big impression on the coach and we’re all looking forward to it. There’s no inkling yet of what the team will be, but we’re all training really hard and it’s really competitive trying to get your spot. “