Role: Central Midfielder, Defensive Midfielder
Squad Status: Regular Starter
Season in a Sentence: Acosta was thrust into the thick of Colorado’s midfield due to Jack Price’s injury absences, but wasn’t able to replicate the Englishman’s distribution or set piece acumen.
The Colorado Rapids selected Bryan Acosta in Stage 2 of the 2021 Re-Entry Draft to very little fanfare following his forgettable three-year stint as a Designated Player with FC Dallas. At the time, the club’s crowded midfield of Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Jack Price made the pick seem peculiar, but Colorado shipped Kellyn to Los Angeles FC and Bassett to Holland before preseason. Those moves opened the door for Bryan to sign a first team deal in January.
The Honduran International started in the Rapids’ MLS opener to ease the pressure off a fatigued Rapids midfield that fell to Communicaciones, but Acosta didn’t regularly feature in Robin Fraser’s teams until Price got sidelined with multiple injuries. More room opened up in Colorado’s midfield when Mark-Anthony Kaye moved to Toronto FC in July, and Acosta still consistently played when the club sprung for Felipe Gutiérrez on a short-term loan in the hours leading into deadline day.
Acosta finished the year with 1,898 minutes accrued across three-quarters of Colorado’s MLS fixtures, and took over set piece duty when the club captain wasn’t fit. He wasn’t very effective from corners or free kicks, and finished the year with only two primary assists. Gutiérrez began to split corner kick duty with Acosta after joining in August, and the Honduran didn’t contribute to any more goals during his final nine appearances.
Things weren’t significantly better during the run of play. Acosta’s pass completion percentage fell just shy of 80%—far below the average midfielder’s standard (38th percentile) in MLS. Despite racking up the fifth-most yellow cards and eight-most fouls in the league, Acosta finished right in the middle of the pack among MLS midfielders, with 1.38 tackles won per 90 (51st percentile) and 1.00 blocks per 90 (43rd percentile).
Acosta did provide some utility to the team’s midfield, despite putting up worse passing numbers than Price. His 1.66 clearances per 90 (89th percentile) and 3.46 shot-creating actions per 90 (84th percentile) rank pretty well among the league, but most of those actions were recorded during set piece duty on either side—an area where Acosta failed to make a significant difference.
His 8.20 long balls per 90 (96th percentile) was one of the top figures in the league, but his success rate of completing those passes was in average territory (64.8%, 55th percentile). That figure ultimately says more about the Rapids’ long ball-or-bust approach in possession than it says about Acosta’s ability—he regularly dropped back from the midfield into the Danny Wilson long-ball role when Colorado played with a back four. The metrics overwhelmingly indicated that he wasn’t able to take on the lion’s share of duties in midfield, and Colorado wasn’t ever confident at playing through the middle of the park when he was on the pitch.
Acosta is on contract through the 2023 season, and the Rapids hold an option for 2024. While he’s on roughly the same wages ($706,667 guaranteed compensation) as Price ($725,000), he hasn’t been able to provide the same value to the team. He’d probably benefit from a more limited role in midfield, but will have to fight his way past stiffer competition for minutes during the coming season.
Without the help of another injury crisis, the Honduran International might have trouble breaking into a midfield in 2023 with a hungry Cole Bassett, a productive Diego Rubio, a healthy Jack Price, and an improving Max. Unless his production begins to fall in line with his cap hit, the Rapids would be wise to trade or cut bait ahead of 2024.