Team: FC Dallas
A product of the phenomenal FC Dallas Youth Academy and Plano, TX native, Kellyn Acosta signed a professional contract with FC Dallas in July 2012. Ineligible for selection until 2013, he made several MLS Reserve League (merged with USL) appearances and was named the “U.S. Soccer Development Academy Central Conference Player of the Year” in the 2011-12 season.
Making his senior debut for FC Dallas in August 2013, he began his tenure at FC Dallas as a fullback, capable of playing both sides, and would go on to make 13 appearances in the 2013 season, starting 11 of those games. The 2014 season saw him suffer a knee injury that prevented him from otherwise maintaining a regular spot in the starting line-up. During the 2015 season, he began to transition into more of a holding midfielder and saw many more starts for Dallas in that position. In 2016 he appeared in 32 out of 34 games during the regular season, starting 24 of them. The 2017 season saw him make only 23 appearances due to injury and international call-ups.
As he had been playing more, his playing style and position has evolved several times. Initially he played more as a defensive fullback, rarely making moves past the deeper parts of midfield, and staying in a more holding role on the touchline. He then transitioned into a holding midfielder, offering cover to a more attack-inclined midfield and recycling possession further up the pitch. The last several years have seen him make the third and possibly final evolution in his play. He has become more of a box-to-box midfielder, in that he will play defensively when his team is out of possession, and then look to consistently have an effect in the attack, becoming sort of a long-shot specialist in the process. Also through his training, he has developed into the teams free kick specialist and even finds himself taking on that role with the national team on occasion.
Acosta made 39 appearances for the U.S. youth teams, including appearances in the 2011 U-17 World Cup, and both the 2013 and 2015 U-20 World Cups. He was handed his senior debut by Bruce Arena in the January 31, 2016 friendly against Iceland. He scored his first and only goal for the USMNT on July 1, 2017 with a low, whipped-in freekick against Ghana. He has made 16 total appearances for the USMNT, and was a part of the squad that won the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
With great talent at such a young age, it is a wonder that he has not already been snapped up by a European team. Perhaps he has his mind set on staying in the MLS and helping it grow as a reputable league for talented players to ply their trade, or is he just waiting for the right time to make his move. With that time possibly coming in this next winter transfer window, we’ll have to see whether or not he will be playing in the MLS come 2018.