Thirteen months ago, Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta received some disappointing news from newly appointed U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) Head Coach, Gregg Berhalter. The then-24-year-old was being “discharged” from the January camp in Chula Vista, California.
At the time, Berhalter explained his reasoning to ESPN. “We had Acosta playing in a position that he has competition in. We felt at the time that the other guys in this position were better suited to play the role than he was. Having said that, and I spoke very clearly to Kellyn, that doesn’t mean that his fate is sealed with the national team. What I explain to him is that this is one slice in time.”
Berhalter continued, “There are the things that he can improve on, and he gets fit, as he gets in better shape, we’re confident he’ll be able to execute on that, and we’re going to continue to monitor that. I told him to stay in contact with the group. If he can help in any way, we’re willing to help with the physical standpoint or the tactical standpoint, working with him when he’s outside. We were very clear in speaking with him when he exited the camp.”
In saying that to Acosta, Berhalter left the door wide open for the talent-laden player from Plano, Texas to walk through again in the future—if he wanted to.
Soon thereafter, Acosta departed for central Florida to join the Rapids at their February 2019 offseason training camp. It also marked his renewed effort to double-down on his physical conditioning, mental attitude, and desire to prove any doubters wrong. His commitment to excellence paid good dividends.
Last week, Berhalter, announced the roster for his December 2020 USMNT camp. Kellyn Acosta’s name was front and center under “MIDFIELDERS.”
Acosta’s dogged approach to getting back in shape, soaking up advice from Rapids head coach Robin Fraser and his staff, and playing his heart out during the turbulent 2020 MLS season collectively earned him the right to walk through the front doors of the MLS Inter-Miami CF Stadium complex where the USMNT have gathered for 10 days.
During a pre-camp press conference, Berhalter complemented Acosta and his rebound. ”Kellyn is an example of a guy who was in the initial January camp that we had and then took a while to get back into it. I give him credit for all the work that he has put in, and the strong season that he had for Colorado to earn an opportunity to prove himself of National Team level,” he said.
Acosta has 23 caps with the USMNT, second to his camp-mate and D.C. United forward Paul Arriola, who has 33 appearances with the Yanks. Acosta has scored twice, while Arriola has found the back of the net thrice.
The duo are the camp’s veterans, as nearly the balance of the invitees (11) are looking for their very first cap, including another Rapids midfielder, Cole Bassett. Joining him are rising players: Ayo Akinola, Frankie Amaya, Julian Araujo CJ Dos Santos, Daryl Dike, Kyle Duncan, Marco Farfan, Chris Mueller, David Ochoa, Mauricio Pineda,
Acosta and Bassett will team up with Rapids left back, Sam Vines, who is also on the roster. He made his debut with the senior side on February 1, 2020 during a friendly versus Costa Rica in Los Angeles.
With so many youth in this camp, the one-time U.S. Soccer Development Academy star and 2011-12 Development Academy’s Central Conference Player of the Year Acosta is overdue to shine, both as leader and likely starter in a friendly against FIFA’s 70th-rank El Salvador’s Azul y Blanco scheduled on December 9 (broadcast on ESPN, TUDN, and UniMás at 5:30 p.m. MT).
It would be a wonderful close to this stress-filled year in seeing Acosta, Bassett, and Vines on the pitch together representing the Red, White, and Blue.