With both Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams absent through injury, when the USMNT faces Colombia on Thursday evening, Kellyn Acosta has a chance to re-stake his claim as the nation’s midfield darling.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Kellyn Acosta was the diamond of every U.S. soccer fans’ eye. But in his demise of recent seasons, it feels like another world away.
The now Colorado Rapids midfielder suffered a frustrating period at FC Dallas. He was not enjoying his football there, as he himself revealed after he was traded to Colorado, and his confidence was shot.
In the meantime, on the national stage, Tyler Adams was breaking through at the New York Red Bulls and Weston McKennie was taking the Bundesliga by storm with Schalke. Suddenly, the U.S. Men’s National Team midfield landscape had changed dramatically.
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And now, as the USMNT prepares for two more friendlies against Colombia and Peru, Acosta has the chance to wrestle back some of the favour that has been poured out on others in recent months.
Both Adams and McKennie are not included in the USMNT squad because of injuries. They are the shoo-ins to anchor the midfield of this new, exciting, youth-infused era, and, in Dave Sarachan’s 4-3-3, which is the presumed foundational system upon which everything else will be built, they are the centrepieces. There is only room for one other central midfielder to join the pair — and a whole lot of competition to win that final spot.
Acosta is at the heart of this competition. He, like Adams and McKennie now, would have been the shoo-in just a year or so ago. But now he has found himself somewhat on the outside looking in, having to prove his worth to Sarachan and the USMNT set-up once more.
He carries solid form into the international break. He has two goals and two assists in 10 starts for a lowly Rapids team that lacks talent and confidence to help support the game-driving midfielder. And with Adams and McKennie unavailable, as well as Christian Pulisic also pulling out because of injury, Acosta will now be one of the key individuals that Sarachan relies upon.
Bar Michael Bradley, he is the most capped midfielder in the squad and is now likely seen as one of the veterans, even at the tender age of 23, such was the extent of his breakthrough as a young prospect. He is a key piece of Sarachan’s puzzle and will be tasked with being the creative hub from midfield, as well as perhaps nicking a goal or two with his signature drives into the penalty area.
Acosta is now fighting for his place in the starting XI. There is great talent in this squad, playing in the same positions as him, and there are plenty of options for the USMNT to turn to in his stead. He must make himself integral to the team through his performances, starting on Thursday night against Colombia.
Adams and McKennie have stolen his crown as the darling of the midfield. He is no longer the diamond breaking through. But he still has a chance to re-stake his claim as a surefire starter. He just has to perform.