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Kellyn Acosta: Rapids move will get me out of my comfort zone


It’s fair to say that, over the last 12 months, Kellyn Acosta’s career had stalled. Last summer, the 23-year-old midfielder was a Gold Cup champion, viewed by many as a longtime U.S. Men’s National Team regular. This summer, Acosta struggled to find his own way with FC Dallas as injuries and a slew of rising midfielders kept him out of the team’s lineup.

Now, Acosta is set for a fresh start, and it’s a much-needed one for a player that is looking to regain some of what was lost over a difficult 12 months.

Acosta was traded to the Colorado Rapids on Monday as the midfielder departed FC Dallas after nearly a decade with the club. It was the only club Acosta had ever known and, over the past several months, it became clear that the midfielder had stagnated.

Last summer, Acosta and FC Dallas were riding high before a late season collapse doomed them in a way previously unimaginable. This season, Acosta’s issues with a hernia kept him out of the lineup as Victor Ulloa and Jacori Hayes proved more than capable replacements for the USMNT midfielder. That opened the door for a move to the Rapids, one that could be a catalyst for reigniting Acosta’s game.

“I want to get back to enjoying the game again,” Acosta said at a press conference on Monday. “I think this is the right step I needed to do that. I’m happy to be here. Just coming to training, I’m already enjoying myself. I just want to reboot myself, get my legs back, get back to the way I’m used to playing and go from there.

“It’s just getting out of my comfort zone. Having that challenge will benefit me in the long run. Being incorporated in training today, seeing new faces, obviously it’s challenging, but I’m ready for that step. I’m ready for that challenge.”

Acosta says he took the first flight out of Dallas as he wanted to waste as little time as possible before beginning his fresh start. He says he has been welcomed with open arms as former USMNT teammates Tim Howard, Marlon Hairston and Dillon Serna helped bring him into the group.

He’s now seen as a player that will be key to that group’s chances of making it out of mediocrity. The Rapids are a team that have struggled throughout the 2018 season, and they’re a team that lost both of its top goalscorers within a matter of weeks. It’s a team that needs a culture change, and Acosta could be the start.

Rapids General Manager Padraig Smith says he wants to be “a perennial playoff team”, and a move for Acosta is a step in that direction in the club’s eyes.

“It’s hard to give up someone like Dominique Badji, but it’s even harder to get someone like Kellyn Acosta,” Smith said. “We’re looking to make a massive change here as a club. Everyone has seen the players we’ve turned over and it takes time to build that, but to do that and do that right and bring the sustainable success we want at this club, you need key pieces in place, and I don’t think there are many more young, dynamic and entertaining players in this league than Kellyn Acosta.

“I’m trying to help the team score more goals,” Acosta said. “I want to be as attacking-minded as possible while helping out defensively. I like the box-to-box role as an eight, so I’ll fill that role and help out in any way possible.”

Acosta admitted that that aim will be difficult, at least for this season. The Rapids have “a hole to climb out of right now”, Acosta says, and that’s putting it lightly. As things stand, the Rapids, who have made the playoffs just once in the last four seasons, have just 17 points through 20 games as the team sits 13 points out of a playoff spot. To date, the Rapids have scored just 24 goals in 20 matches.

The former FC Dallas midfielder can’t fix that alone, and the trade for Acosta is seen as a move towards a culture change. It’s a change needed for both player and club, two parties in need of a shakeup to get back to their best.

“Obviously leaving a club that I’ve been with for 10 years is definitely a difficult thing to do,” Acosta said, “but when Colorado came in, I’m excited to be here. It’s the next step in my journey.


  1. The mistake Acosta made was signing a pro contract at 16 that went beyond his 18th birthday. Dallas reportedly shewed away offers for him over the last few seasons, consistently coming out in the press that they would not sell him at the beginning of each window. Now how much of these rumors of interest were true is hard to judge, but its clear from Acosta’s comments that Dallas keeping him despite his expressed desires to move abroad weighed heavily on his performance. He was at his best in the late Spring early Summer of last year, Dallas announced they would not move him in the Summer, he gets hurt and misses the January window as well.

    • I don’t think his career is over, solid pro, finding a less talented team. I just think the difference between special pro/international and solid journeyman is filling an irreplaceable with niche with unique abilities. Height, speed, technique, defense, free kick taking, setup work, finishing, etc. I think you can be an age group star without being particularly gifted. I think to be an adult star you have to have some gifts and find your niche. Freddy Adu is the classic example of someone who was skilled enough to be a junior success but useless as a senior because he wasn’t fast, was short, didn’t defend, didn’t run much, and the skills he had relative to youth players regressed towards the mean relative to pro adults. And even if you try hard, if effort was enough, the Dax McCartys of soccer would be all-world. The sport instead favors the amazingly fast, the smart, the tall, the precise, the elusive.

      The difference between him and say McKennie is within one international game the new kid had dribbled an international defense and slammed a ball in the net, and I bet he can defend better, too. Specialness.

  2. This kind of comes across like he lacks ambition/motivation. Unlike his similarly unambitious colleague Nagbe, he hasn’t even won a trophy to get complacent. Nor has he truly established himself on the NT or even in the pool as a fixture. Where does this come from?
    People are like, go to Europe. I don’t expect more going to Europe unmotivated. Not even sure if they’d pay for a player until he starts here and plays like he cares.

    The “box to box” identification to me reflects he is meh mush, nothing awesome in either specialized role 10 or 6. 9G 12A on offense in 6 years, and then he’s not some great stopper. To me, to be truly useful to the Nats you need a niche. Scorer, passer, effort guy, legbreaker. What is it he’s that special at? Mush. So he’s selling the 8 role, “two way.” Lot of people described as “two way” guys strike me as this same sort of mush. Give me specialists that execute their role at a high level over master of none mush any day. If he wants back in the fray he needs to actually look good at something. Because several in this generation coming up look like they can seize a niche. But is he motivated to care.

    • Re him playing back, Jermaine Jones had a couple excellent games as a fill in CB. Granted, Eddie Lewis tried a similar switch and looked horrible. But to me if you have a knack for defense it will manifest anywhere in the back 8 spots in the formation. If you’re undermotivated mush, ok, not only did he get beat out for Dallas mid slots but then he wasn’t impressive at back either. At some point here you either start upping your game to become the guy they want at some useful slot, or you become the Brek Shea guy traded around like the proverbial fruitcake, old team wants rid of him and new team is just hoping based on what he was supposed to be. So what is he? I know what Pulisic, McKennie, Robinson, etc. offer. You can already see them doing specific things well. What do you offer?


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