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USMNT center midfield becomes crowded after Kellyn Acosta’s outing


TAMPA, Fla. — An area of strength became even stronger on Thursday, and the competition is only set to become more intense as a result.

The U.S. Men’s National Team saw its talented central midfield pool become that much more crowded on Thursday night, as Kellyn Acosta capitalized on his opportunity to play by turning in a solid shift that included an impressive and timely goal.

In the absence of injured Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, Acosta played as the No. 8 in the U.S.’s 4-2-3-1 formation on Thursday. The Colorado Rapids’ midfielder was not dominant or overly influential in the 4-2 loss to Colombia, but he held his own against the opposing star-studded attack and it was his goal that sparked a quick, though brief, rally for the Americans.

“Every game is an opportunity for me to showcase myself. Obviously with some players missing, it was my turn to kind of step up,” said Acosta. “I was happy with the opportunity and I was just trying to make the most of it. Obviously, a disappointing result but I was happy with my goal.”

Acosta’s biggest contribution in the match at a wet Raymond James Stadium came in the 50th minute. Trailing Colombia after some individual brilliance from star playmaker James Rodriguez, Acosta found the splendid equalizer with a trailing run and side-footed first-timed finish to make it 1-1.

As impressive as the goal was and as crucial as it was in giving the Americans the lift they needed to take a 2-1 lead, U.S. head coach Dave Sarachan still saw some room for improvement for Acosta.

“I think Kellyn on balance had a good night,” said Sarachan. “If I were to be a little critical, and he would agree and he wasn’t the only one, but in the first half, there were some simple passes that I think he didn’t do great with. I’m not going to use the field as an excuse, but it’s not the easiest night in terms of collecting balls and passing.

“I think he on balance in the second half did a lot better with that. Kellyn, obviously, he gets the goal, but he’s got a great engine and I think he worked his way into the match and did pretty well.”

Acosta concurred and also added another area that he felt he could have done better with against the talented Colombians.

“I thought sometimes I was just trying to find my legs again. We were running a lot, and I wasn’t putting enough pressure to cause some turnovers,” said Acosta. “Obviously that didn’t help, but I think the biggest thing is just being cleaner on the ball, cleaner in the park. Playing in the midfield you’ve got to be the engine of the team and so I need to be cleaner in that aspect.”

His inaccurate passing aside, Acosta certainly did not hurt his standing in the crowded pool of American central midfielders on Thursday night. The duo of Adams and McKennie are largely seen as the future in that part of the field, but Acosta, who was playing with the U.S. even before it began this current transition to a younger generation, reminded everyone that he also has something to offer.

It might not make for easy lineup selections in the future for the future U.S. head coach, especially when you throw in the likes of Michael Bradley and Wil Trapp into the mix, but the abundance of capable players is a good problem to have.

“We have a lot of talent, a lot of new young players coming up and obviously Kellyn has been establishing himself with the national team for the past two years,” said centerback Matt Miazga. “There’s a lot of talent and that’s how it is. It’s competition, that’s good. Having competition with the national team makes us all better and makes us all train harder, play harder with our teams and try to get on the pitch. It’s good that we have a lot of options.”

Acosta, for his part, is hoping to build on this performance and looking to get the start next week against Peru. He knows he has to make up the ground he lost on the likes of Adams and McKennie when he was injured earlier this year in order to reestablish his place in the U.S. depth chart, and Thursday was a step in that direction.

No, it might not have been a perfect game, but Acosta still did well enough to earn further consideration for the minutes in the midfield.

“It’s always disappointing when you miss some games due injury,” said Acosta. “You’re trying to get back in the fold and obviously guys that come in, it’s an opportunity for other players to step up and everyone that’s been in camps have done a great job.

“Now it’s kind of my opportunity. There’s been some injuries and now it’s my chance to show the fans, show the team what I’m capable and show that I belong on this team.”


  1. It’s only crowded until the new coach is named. Then everybody (except Pulisic) starts again. If it is in fact crowded, we certainly don’t need any joggers.

  2. With the way our pool is emerging we are building a very nice pool of athletic CM’s (Box to Box types). We’ve got Mckennie, Adams, K. Acosta, Parks, Lletget, Hyndman, Delgado & Roldan. As these players mature and gain experience I would not be surprised to see the USMNT shift towards a more 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 type formation where we could get the most out of their work rate/defensive capabilities and free up players like Pulisic, Weah, Green, etc…on the offensive side to find the game without as much defensive responsibility.


    Width provided by overlaps from the outside backs while still having defensive coverage by Acosta & Adams. Weah & Pulisic are free to interchange and drift inside & out to provide different angles/passing lanes for build-up and finding space. *could also see Williams as the more central player, kicking McKennie out to the wider position.

    This also hides our lack of quality options at the Striker, Attacking/Wide Midfield positions.

    I still believe that if we can find 2 strong partners for Pulisic the 4-2-3-1 will be our best formation option. I have great hope for Weah, Amon & hopefully Tillman. But right now our CM’s are emerging & progressing quicker than our Attackers. I think this might work well for the next year or 2 while our attackers catch up to our CMs.

  3. They finally play a formation that suits them but they play it without the best players due to injury, that makes sense. With Adams and Mckennie healthy Acosta is a great backup plan

    • Agree. Additionally when Pulisic is added to the attacking side it would hopefully help with our maintaining possession. We’ve yet to see all of our best young guns on the field together, or even in camp together. I’m hoping we’ll finally see McKennie, Adams, Pulisic, Saief, Weah, & Green together in November. Then we’ll get a chance to see what we really have to work with, and where we still need help.

  4. I am curious to hear what yall think of the idea of seeing AR on the left wing? From what i have seen, he is among the best 2 or 3 in creating some space and playing the ball in from that side, if not the best. But his defending at this level is quite weak, so i think we could maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses by putting him on the left wing with someone behind him.
    Also, its hard to say who was deserving of man of the match honors in this rather lackluster performance, but i felt KA was weak. Great goal, but many mistakes otherwise, weak passes, loss of possession, that kinda thing. If i HAD to pick i would prob pick weah for MotM. His assist was great but he also seemed to have an attacking confidence that no one else had. He at least attempted plays that our other players rarely seem to even imagine, and if even one or two other players out there were at that level and on that page, a lot more of what he tried would have worked. That being said, there is something to be said for knowing your teammates and playing to their strengths.
    Also, i thought Green was a relatively strong candidate for MotM here.
    Finally, Sargents turn was beautiful; wish he would have shot that.

  5. Call up Alfredo Morales or Giedon Zelalem instead of thrash Bradley. I do not care Zelalem does not make Arsenals bench get him exposure maybe another first team side in EPL where he can get 1st team minutes.

  6. Pulisic

    That’s the CM midfield order. We cant play 6 CM’s in the middle to get Bradley on the field. But I guess we could. We just have Yedlin and Robinson do all the work on the wings.

    • Trapp can’t hold Acostas jock strap, its a reason Sarachan started Kelleyn over Will in the more difficult of the two friendlies this month.

  7. I jumped on here to add comment about pushing him to left back. But you all have covered the idea quite well. Hopefully it will happen.

  8. I’m not sure what the fear is of a “crowded midfield,” ie, having some options. The more apt critique would be the one below, that it was so rough a game it’s hard to separate one player’s performance from another. No one stood out. No one played well for 90.

    For example, the backline is not the mids, but every one of them handed away part of a goal. But this was Colombia. What do you do with that? Robinson to me was the only one so bad it’s disqualifying. But not being disqualified is hardly how to win a race.

    More players in against better calibrated opponents. You want to be able to make distinctions and not just say wow we got our tails universally kicked.

    Also, sub earlier, the subs in this one got so little time what is the point. We already were losing, so why are you sitting on them? Why are you giving people 10 minutes? I assume some of this will be rectified vs Peru but the smarter way for evaluation is like 45-60 and then 30-45 and only the scrubbiest just see 10. This is not supposed to be A Team games where the trialists just get to go to camp and play 5 minutes to leave chemistry intact.

  9. He had a nice run on the goal. Other than that meh. But there’s plenty of meh going around.

    The recent games are pointless because so many of the players look overwhelmed it’s hard to make a fair and even evaluation, and almost like you read too much into any one decent play. Does this 20 seconds fix the rest of the outing or make him better than the next player?

    From that game you basically learned Robinson was a mess. Anything else is subject to debate because the opponent was overwhelming and if so that doesn’t kick the roster ball far downfield.

  10. His passing and play in tight spaces is not good enough to be a top center midfielder at this level. He could be a top left back due to his athleticism and ability on the ball when he has space to play in. He is our best option at left back while we have several better options in the midfield. And, it is not like left back is a foreign position for him. He has plenty of experience playing there. Would we rather keep on trotting Robinson, Villafana, Ream, or Lichaj out there?

    • I wouldn’t mind trotting him out at LB to see how it goes– it’s true that our MF is probably going to be too crowded for him and he does have experience at the position in his U-20 and early FCD days. However, I’d need to see it to really believe he’s an upgrade. Right now he doesn’t have much more meaningful pro experience at LB than Robinson (and unlike Robinson, he won’t be getting much more at the club level anytime soon). And while I think Acosta is less likely to be turned into a headless chicken out there, I don’t really have much to go on saying that….

      • Acosta has shown that he is a much better defender than Robinson even though it has been at a different position. He is a much better tackler, has similar speed if not slightly less, and is significantly stronger and better in the air. His positioning (based on his play in the middle of the park and his previous experience as a left back) should not be a problem, although it is more of an unknown and might require some transition. He would not provide the service from the flank that is Robinson’s bread and butter, but he would be better in the build up and in possession.

      • I recall people roasting JK for playing K. Acosta at LB prior to the Hex last cycle. I’m not opposed to trying it again, but we need a LB who plays the position week in & week out. And I just don’t see that happening with K. Acosta.

        Acosta might be a better option at LB right now, but people need to remember that Acosta has 2 additional years of playing 1st team minutes than Robinson. As Robinson gains experience & chemistry with his teammates he will get better.

  11. i have a question. joe, you wrote this piece, yeah? did you also write the title?

    because i basically agree with the article, but i disagree with the title.

    “No, it might not have been a perfect game, but Acosta still did well enough to earn further consideration for the minutes in the midfield.”
    my two cents: yes, correct.

    the title: “USMNT center midfield becomes crowded after Kellyn Acosta’s solid outing”
    my two cents: no, “solid” is incorrect.
    a better title would be “acosta not perfect but showing promise” or something like that.
    absolutely not, he was not “solid”. the opposite. he had happy feet. he looked nervous. he many times gave the ball away cheaply (just playing the ball right to the other team!)


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