The most important aspect of Kellyn Acosta’s performance for the United States men’s national team in the inaugural Gold Cup victory over Haiti was that it happened.
Wearing the US Soccer badge has been part of Acosta’s routine lately, but not recently. His appearances in CONCACAF Nations League competition last month and this tournament represent his first sustained participation in the USMNT in three years.
In a Sunday game that featured few things the team members could be excited about other than the 8th minute goal from left-back Sam Vines, Shaq Moore’s speed on the right wing, the composure in the defense of the young Miles Robinson and the three points. That turned out: Acosta’s energy and audacity stood out for the full 90 minutes.
MORE: USMNT vs. Haiti Player Rankings
“I missed the urge to score more goals, to be dangerous … and aggressive,” head coach Greg Berhalter told reporters after the game. “For me, it was too slow, too backwards and without enough intention to turn Haiti around and have them defend in the penalty area.
“So from the side of the attack, we were disappointed in the intention that we showed tonight.”
Acosta was one of the few largely blameless in all of this. He was involved in the only goal of the game and covered the Earth like Sherwin Williams.
Twenty minutes later, he put his conscience at risk by aggressively chasing a loose ball with the top of his head. Before halftime, he stopped a strong Haiti advance by moving to the sideline and knocking the ball into the crowd. Before the break, he played a great forward pass to sub-winger Nicholas Gioacchini that resulted in a corner kick.
The same happened in the second half: a timely withdrawal in the 49th minute to interrupt a pass from Haiti in the US area that could have been converted into a goal; a beautiful pass from the outside of his boot that Gioacchini almost scored into a second goal, but instead of throwing the far post; and, although he was given a yellow card, an aggressive “tackle” was executed in the open field just to ensure that Haiti did not come out clear in the 70th minute.
Moore was named US Soccer’s Man of the Game because he dazzled. The United States won, however, because Acosta was more active and effective in making Vines’ goal stick. On Twitter, football journalists Brian Sciaretta of American Soccer Now and Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives cited him as one of the best USMNT players of the night.
If this continues throughout the course of the tournament, which continues on Thursday with a second group game, against Martinique, and concludes with the championship game on August 1, Acosta will have earned a position for qualifying games for the Copa del Much more important world that begin to flow in September and do not diminish until March.
MORE: Classification, schedule and results of the Gold Cup
Acosta didn’t start as a defensive midfielder in this game; that role belonged to Jackson Yuell of San José. But Acosta probably did a better job in that regard.
He had already performed well in multiple roles in the Nations League final against Mexico, even moving to the left back late in the game to help solidify the defense in that part of the field. This was just one more step in a comeback that probably should never have needed to be a comeback.
Hailing from the Dallas suburb of Plano, Acosta played 23 international games before his 22nd birthday, including four starts in the team’s 2017 Gold Cup win and a 90-minute draw 1-1 in World Cup qualification at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico. He played only the final 18 minutes of the disastrous World Cup qualifying loss to Trinidad and Tobago that kept the USA out of Russia 2018, but almost rescued the effort with a pass that teammate Clint Dempsey fired from the goal post. goal.
He played in six friendlies and started four in 2018, when Dave Sarachan was coaching the team on an interim basis, but as the show and its fans became enthralled with new midfield options, including Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, Acosta disappeared from the scene. . He made 30 starts for the Colorado Rapids in 2019, but not a single appearance for the US.
Four years ago, when Acosta was 21 and was selected to the MLS All-Star Game as a member of FC Dallas, his future seemed to be on fire. He played 45 minutes of that 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at Soldier Field in Chicago. There was such an open discussion about a possible move to Europe that even the Dallas manager openly said he hoped that would happen for Acosta.
Instead, a year later, he was traded to Colorado Rapids, which was as close to the bottom of MLS as possible. While battling a nagging groin injury, Acosta gradually disappeared from the radar of American football. However, he is still only 25 years old and hopes to move to Europe which could reinvigorate his career and a role in the USMNT that could help send everyone involved to Qatar in November 2022.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.