The US men's national team's victorious run in the Concacaf Gold Cup was highlighted by many stock-boosting performances, with the showing from Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta among the most notable.
The 26-year-old played a vital role on both sides of the ball, whether it was his pinpoint passing, ability to dictate tempo, or doing the dirty work on defense. Acosta also sent in the pinpoint free kick that Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson headed home for the game-winning goal in the final against Mexico.
All of that was enough to earn Acosta plaudits on the latest edition of Extratime Club & Country, in which the crew took stock of his case for when World Cup Qualifying begins in early September.
"Kellyn Acosta was that man," said co-host Andrew Wiebe. "That's multiple games in this tournament where everything was him. He was in the middle of everything, he was winning the tackles he had to win, he was finding the right balls when he did pick it up -- he was the game for the US in a lot of ways. And he was the leader, and that's what he was supposed to be."
Calen Carr echoed the sentiment, noting how unfazed Acosta seems during pressure-filled moments. His versatility and mentality are bound to help the USMNT in high-stakes qualifiers, too.
"The biggest thing about him I would say is just he's a winner," Carr said. "You could see in the Nations League Final -- he starts the game at the 6, moves out and ends up playing left back at the end of that game and had an incredible performance in that again. As the tournament built, he just got bigger and bigger as it went on. I feel like every time the moment arrives for a big match, he's up for it. He's in somebody's ear, he's in somebody's face, he's making the right plays, he's making the right passes.
"And he had an extra gear," Carr continued. "The way we talk about Tyler Adams out there, he covered just as much ground. I would love to see how much distance he covered in this match. He was everywhere. Plays with both feet, can get out of trouble. And so when you think about going into Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers, he's got to be in the team -- I don't care where on the field.
"Now it's at the point where you just have to find a place for him. It would probably be at the No. 6 position, but if it needs to be somewhere else, I think you find a spot for him on the field because I think he's that important and that versatile, can do that much for this team. Kellyn Acosta, Man of the Match tonight, but you could say that probably through a number of them."
Carr added that he wouldn't be surprised if Acosta draws the attention of overseas clubs who may have been monitoring the tournament. Whether that comes or not, the midfielder has reaffirmed his importance to Gregg Berhalter's side.
"It's a long career, right? I think he just turned 26 during this tournament," Carr said. "If you're a European suitor watching this, you're probably going to have a pretty good idea of how he sizes up against whoever it might be for the Mexican side that's plying their trade in Europe.
"I just give him so much credit for showing his personality and I think he's going to play a big role, not just in World Cup Qualifiers, but I think also a player that will play a big role at the World Cup, provided we qualify, which still needs to be done. I don't want to count chickens because we won two tournaments this summer. It's the big one ahead. But he will definitely play a big part in helping us get there."