DC United players see shades of Giovinco in emerging star Luciano Acosta

WASHINGTON – The objective during training is to be on the winning team. That is the mentality of competitive D.C. United captain Bobby Boswell.

The MLS veteran center back has an ongoing competition with teammate and former Seattle Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle. The two players keep track of how many times they are on the winning team during drills.

Lately, though, they've had to get used to Argentinian forward Luciano Acosta crashing the party.

“A guy like Lucho can neutralize any drill because he is such a special player,” Boswell told MLSsoccer.com following Friday’s training. “Lucho is the X-factor in training. If he is on your team you are probably going to win the game.”

Acosta joined United ahead of the 2016 MLS season on loan from Boca Juniors, but the 22-year-old has taken longer than desired to transition into a major difference maker for United. Along with the language barrier, Acosta has had to adjust to the physicality and regulations of MLS.

“It is much more physical and the rules are a bit different,” Acosta said. “Every week I am a little more comfortable not only in the league, but with the team and with our players here. There is still a lot to learn because I just got here, especially with English.”

Before coming to MLS, Acosta looked for advice about the league. He found that guidance in former Boca Juniors teammate and current Real Salt Lake forward Juan Manuel 'Burrito' Martinez.

“Burrito Martinez reached out to me before I signed,” Acosta said. “He told me how comfortable he was here and that if I had the opportunity to come here I should take it.”

Martinez made an immediate impact after joining RSL in August of 2015, recording one goal and one assist in only eight games. He has six goals this season.

Acosta’s start has been a little slower. Despite playing all 23 games and starting 17, he is just now beginning to put together consecutive 90-minute games. After failing to go the full 90 in 19 games to start the season, Acosta has now started and gone the distance in four consecutive outings.

“He feels like he can play 90 minutes all the time,” Boswell said. “It is more about the game scripts and what the coaches are trying to do.”

Boswell, who is in his 12th MLS season, said Acosta reminded him a little of 2015 MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco. Both players are small attackers that can have a big impact.  The biggest difference between the two is that Giovinco has 15 goals this season and Acosta has two.

“Giovinco has a lot more goals on the scoring sheet,” Boswell said. “But I think Lucho has a lot more plays in the game that help the guys around him look better.”

Goals draw attention in the MLS, but Acosta brings something to RFK Stadium that hasn’t been there in years. He can captivate Twitter timelines with fancy footwork, taking on two or three defenders at a time. His biggest fault is a lack of finishing touches.

“I know he is learning a lot about our league, but he is only making the league better,” Boswell said. “We are learning more from him.”

Acosta schools his teammates in practice, but the next step is translating it to the field on game day. His next chance is Sunday when United host the rival New York Red Bulls at RFK Stadium (3 pm ET; ESPN in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada).

“We are trying to get [Acosta] to do it on the weekends,” Boswell said. “If he does, watch out because we are going to be a lot more dangerous.”