This question was submitted by Jacob B.
Hey, thanks for the question Jacob.
Miles Robinson’s recent Achilles injury is awful. It’s awful for Atlanta United, it’s awful for the U.S. men’s national team, but most of all, it’s awful for Miles Robinson. You could see just how frustrated he was after going down in the first half on Saturday against the Chicago Fire. Now that we know it’s a ruptured Achilles, it seems very unlikely that Robinson will play for Atlanta again this season or that he’ll feature for the USMNT at the World Cup in November.
Like I said, it sucks.
To actually get to Jacob’s question, though, I think there are a few different players that Gregg Berhalter can turn to who can at least partially replicate Miles Robinson’s athleticism and his ability to defend in space. My three picks are Aaron Long, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Aaron Long is an interesting one because he was the USMNT’s Miles Robinson before Robinson was the USMNT’s Miles Robinson. From Berhalter’s very first day in charge, Long provided a dose of mobility to compliment a more technical center back like John Brooks or Tim Ream who could help break the game open in possession. Thanks to a torn Achilles of his own, Long hasn’t been as involved with the U.S. over the last year. But to my eye, his ability to pressure the ball, win balls in the air, and defend in space has largely returned.
Palmer-Brown doesn’t get a ton of reps defending in space with Troyes in the French first division, mostly because Troyes is a bad team that doesn’t spend much time with the ball in the attacking half. If you don’t spend much time with the ball high up the field, you aren’t going to do much of any defending in space. Still, Palmer-Brown is an athletic center back. He’s not as dangerous in the air as Long, but EPB is someone that Berhalter knows and has relied on already this year.
Carter-Vickers is a bit of a wild card here. The 24-year-old has only played once under Berhalter and that was in a pre-Gold Cup friendly back in June, 2019. Since that friendly, though, CCV has become a regular starter for Celtic, the best team in Scotland, and his passing has developed to the point where he may actually bring some real value in possession. Now, I’m not sure how well Carter-Vickers will defend in space with the USMNT. He does just fine for Celtic, but the United States will be playing games against teams that are largely better than the teams that Celtic play against.
If I’m picking one of these three guys that I’d like to see next to Walker Zimmerman in June, it’s Carter-Vickers. I’d love to see if he can add value on both sides of the ball.