Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long have spoken of the 'heartbreak' they felt at seeing fellow United States defender Miles Robinson go down with a season-ending injury.
The Atlanta United center-back has become a key piece for club and country over the last couple of years thanks to his excellent one-on-one defending and habit of scoring big goals - including the winner in the USMNT's 2021 Gold Cup final win over Mexico.
But Robinson went down without contact in the 14th minute of Atlanta's 4-1 win over the Chicago Fire at the start of May. The defender was making a routine clearance before hitting the floor, pointing to his left leg, and slamming his hands on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf in frustration. The defender was carried off the field minutes later to be replaced by Alex De John.
The injury was confirmed to be a ruptured Achilles tendon in his left leg that will likely keep Robinson out for between six to nine months. That means the chances of him being a part of the USMNT's roster for the 2022 World Cup in November are now incredibly slim.
"You start thinking about the timelines, you start thinking about the math, and while it's not impossible to come back, certainly it's going to be an uphill battle," Zimmerman told reporters this week. "I just immediately reached out to [Miles]."
Zimmerman quickly reached out to another USMNT center-back who has battled with injury problems in the recent past: Aaron Long.
The New York Red Bulls center-back is now back in contention for Gregg Berhalter, but only after battling back from a similar injury almost a year earlier.
"It was a weird feeling I got," Long said of hearing the news. "It was like heartbreak and instantly, like, 'I need to be the one that that reaches out to him as fast as possible to let him know that I've been through this, and I will help him through this process.'"
Long has remained in contact with Robinson to share his recovery experience and to aid in the process. Right now, he's preaching patience to the 25-year-old, who cannot risk worsening the situation by doing too much too fast.
"There's certain ways you can speed up the rehab process, but you've got to listen to your body," Long said. "I'm just trying to tell him that now's not the time to speed things up. You've got to let it heal for that first month or two."
The 29-year-old added: "I think more than anything, it's just trying to get your calf and your brain just to be on the same page, and to almost trust yourself in certain moments of like exploding or backpedaling, things like that."
Long and Zimmerman are on international duty this month as the USMNT face friendlies against Morocco and Uruguay, and Concacaf Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvador.