Twelve months ago, Kellyn Acosta was gaining hype as one of the top young U.S. Men’s National Team midfielders.
On Monday, he was banished to the Colorado Rapids by FC Dallas in exchange for Dominique Badji. The Western Conference foes also swapped 2019 first-round picks and the Rapids acquired a second-round pick in 2019 as well.
Of course, Acosta is the big name in the deal because of his stature with the USMNT, but FC Dallas actually came out of the trade as the winner, no matter how hard the decision was to ship one of its best Homegrown players to Commerce City.
Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo and Jacori Hayes played well enough while Acosta was recovering from injury, and in the time since he’s returned, to earn the confidence of head coach Oscar Pareja.
With three viable options in central midfield, it made no sense for Acosta to languish on the bench and drop further down the USMNT depth chart at a position that is loaded and might be the deepest on the American roster, but that’s another topic for when U.S. general manager Earnie Stewart names a head coach.
FC Dallas missed the golden opportunity to sell Acosta to a European side last season when his stock was at its highest.
At that point, the USMNT was still in contention to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and Acosta was a part of the squad that took home the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup.
As an intriguing 22-year-old prospect, Acosta’s sale last summer would’ve given FC Dallas its best possible return.
Fast forward to Monday, when the Western Conference received the best possible return for Acosta in a proven forward in Badji, who is one of the most remarkable MLS stories in recent history.
The Senegal native carved out a spot for himself as the only consistent scorer on the Rapids roster, and he became one of the few valuable pieces on the roster full of Championship retreads.
Badji’s found the back of the net on 16 occasions in the last two seasons, and he’s provided eight assists in that time.
With seven goals in 2018, Badji comes into the FC Dallas squad as the joint top scorer alongside Roland Lamah. Maxi Urruti is the only other FC Dallas player with more than three goals.
Adding Badji to an attacking group headlined by Urruti and Lamah, who have flown under the radar a bit as offensive weapons, helps as Pareja molds his front line after the departure of midfield unicorn Mauro Diaz to the United Arab Emirates.
Obviously Badji doesn’t fill the void at the No. 10, but it gives Pareja more comfort to play Lamah behind Urruti for the time being since he’ll have scoring threats in Badji and Michael Barrios flanking the Uruguayan.
Badji’s impact could be felt as early as Saturday, when FC Dallas collides with Sporting Kansas City in a top-of-the-table clash that could serve as a potential Western Conference final preview.
Meanwhile on the other half of the standings, we’re stuck throwing our hands up in the air in question of another Rapids move.
Bringing in Acosta isn’t the issue with the move. The Rapids traded away the one player who’s brought some type of life to the final third over the last two years, and now we have to further question where exactly the goals will be coming from for Anthony Hudson’s side.
To add more complications to the matter, the Rapids released Joe Mason recently, who is second on the team’s scoring chart with three goals.
That leaves Jack McBean, who with 101 more minutes on the field will eclipse his career high of 715 minutes in a single season, disappointing signing Yannick Boli, the forgotten Shkelzen Gashi, 2018 fourth-round pick Niki Jackson and recently acquired Giles Barnes as the forwards on the roster.
Barnes is expected to be the answer up top, but nothing he’s done since scoring 11 goals in 2014 with the Houston Dynamo convinces anyone he can be the target man the Rapids want him to be.
The English-born Jamaican international is coming off a disappointing spell with Club Leon in Liga MX, and there’s no guarantee he’ll create a plethora of scoring opportunities given the way the Rapids have lined up this season.
Acosta enters the crowded midfield as the best player at the position, and he has nothing to lose with the change of scenery.
The best-case scenario for the Rapids and Acosta is that he regains his form and either remains with the club for the future as it tries to figure out a direction, or he gets sold abroad and the Rapids collect a piece of the transfer fee.
As part of the trade, both teams retain 50 percent of any international transfer value through the 2020 secondary transfer window, which means FC Dallas would still profit a bit if Acosta was sold by the Rapids.
With that clause in effect, the Rapids end up with the shorter end of the stick because there’s a much larger chance of Acosta, who has 17 USMNT caps, being sold than Badji.
Sure, the Rapids could reap the rewards of Acosta’s performance and have a decent second half of the 2018 campaign, but FC Dallas is in a much better place to succeed.
With a reliable forward added to the lineup and the possibility of still profiting off an Acosta sale, FC Dallas comes away as the clear winner of Monday’s deal.