Is Kellyn Acosta the Future of Soccer in the U.S.?
March 24, 2017
SAN JOSE, Calif.—In person, Kellyn Acosta is understated. He's slight in that way that most elite soccer players are, and soft-spoken. He's just 21, but already speaks in the cliches of a well-honed pro.
"I'm holding my own. I'm in my defensive midfield role that I like and that I've been playing consistently with Dallas. I think I'm doing well," Acosta said before training at Avaya Stadium on Thursday afternoon. "I can always get better each and every day but I'm learning from the guys here. Hopefully I can keep improving."
The FC Dallas star is young, yes, but he's already into his fourth full season as a pro. None of this is new. He knows how to answer questions and how to play the game. He's done so at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups and, hopefully, in Russia if things go right for him and for the United States squad.
If there's anything remarkable about Acosta, it's how unremarkable his rise has been. The Plano, Texas native signed a Homegrown contract in 2012 and has gotten better and better. He's never been the Next Big Thing. There haven't been overheated blog posts about his potential. He's not the first Homegrown player to figure for the senior team—bigger names like Agudelo, Zardes, and Morris beat him there—but he's a better example of how MLS could improve the Stars and Stripes going forward than those three.
Acosta is a player who has delivered on his potential, and continues to do so. This is how the youth movement is supposed to work: give dozens of young players the right situations and support, and hope the maximize their ability. They help their MLS team and, when things go right, the red, white, and blue as well. Acosta could be the first of many.
Tim Howard believes.
"I think Kellyn is going to be a superstar. I really do," the American goalkeeper said. "I think he's got a great engine. He's athletic. He looks good on the ball. He's a good runner. Left and right foot. Set pieces. He's dangerous. I really think that the sky is the limit for him as he goes forward the next couple of years."
"When he gets his opportunity, he won't be fazed by it."
While Acosta doesn't focus on his status as a torchbearer, he understands his position as one.
"I don't really think about it too much. I'm just trying to go out there every day and be better," he said. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "But I have accomplished a lot."
"Hopefully I can continue to get the minutes and hopefully other players will follow suit. There are a lot of youth players coming up from the U-20s who are trying to make their mark. Hopefully they can follow in the same footsteps."
Acosta might never become a regular starter for the U.S. He might not make the World Cup squad or the one after that. He might fade away. Or maybe he will anchor the defensive midfield position for a decade. Where, exactly, he ends up isn't really the point. The point is that he made it at all.
"I think it's a great example," Howard said. "But it doesn't happen by chance. He works hard and he's supremely talked. It's not just easy, a Homegrown Player coming through."
"But it certainly sets a good precedent."