BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The U.S U-20 team will wrap up the, Toulon Tournament today when it takes on South Korea and for the team's youngest player, Kellyn Acosta, it marks the last in a series of accomplishments.
At the start of 2013, Acosta began training fulltime with the first team of FC Dallas and was also playing with the US U-18 team. Last July Acosta, who is normally a central box-to-box midfielder but who can also play as a fullback, signed a professional homegrown contract with the club but this year has seen him take an increased role within the club.
Acosta, 17, is yet to make his first team debut with Dallas but after talking with Schellas Hyndman, he believes it will happen sooner than later. Still he has noticed vast improvements in his game this year after training with the club's first team on a daily basis.
"It's helped me tremendously to play smarter and faster," Acosta told YA. "I've grown as a player since being in a professional environment. I just want to continue to work hard and give the older guys a challenge for their spot every week."
Growing up in Plano, Texas, Acosta always dreamed of playing professionally in Europe. At the time, he did not think much of the Dallas Burn, as the club was known until 2005. He recalls going to see the Burn play but never really took playing in the league too seriously.
His perception of the league began to change when the club moved into Pizza Hut Park in 2005 and in later years when Brek Shea became a dominant force in MLS. Recently, the club also began to seek out younger, talented players like Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman and Colombia's Fabian Castillo. The club also signed other homegrown products like Jonathan Top, London Woodberry, and Bradlee Baladez.
Last year when Acosta was making the decision of where to begin his professional career, MLS was more of a comfortable option for him after he witnessed the league's progress. He still holds ambitions of eventually playing in Europe but believe he can develop quickly at FC Dallas.
"My top goal was always to play in Europe but I felt that was too big of a step for me," Acosta said. "I felt that being in MLS at home would be the best fit where I could grow and become better and adapt to the style of play. Hopefully we'll see how that goes in the long run and see if I can eventually go over to Europe."
On the international front, Acosta is aiming to be a late inclusion into US U-20 coach Tab Ramos' plans ahead of this summer's World Cup in Turkey. On the current US roster for the Toulon tournament, Acosta is the only player born after 1994 and thus is the only player eligible for the 2015 U-20 World Cup as well.
Acosta made his US U-20 debut in March when he was called up by Tab Ramos for the team's first camp after qualifying for the World Cup.
"It's a great accomplishment for me," Acosta recalled of his first U-20 invite. "I was kind of speechless really. Hopefully Tab is looking at me for both cycles. That's the goal for me right now. It's a great opportunity for me to play at an international level and playing up an age group. I'm excited."
As for whether he feels ready to make the jump to the US U-20s at an early age, Acosta is quick to point out that his time with FC Dallas has him prepared for the high level of play.
"I'm playing regularly with first team at FC Dallas," Acosta said. "The players there are at a professional level so most of it is all the same. I'm kind of already used to it."
Should Acosta make the US U-20 World Cup team, the level of play will be raised even higher as the U.S was drawn into the tournament's toughest group with Spain, France, and Ghana.
The difficult draw has many figuring that the United States will not advance out of group play but Acosta is confident in the U.S team's ability play with and beat the world's most powerful soccer nations.
"It was a tough draw but we have a good team," Acosta pointed out with a smile. "I don't think that teams should underestimate us. If we play well, we can beat these teams."