FRISCO, Texas – One month before FC Dallas’ dramatic 2-1 win and shootout win over the Seattle Sounders last Sunday night in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, midfielder Kellyn Acosta was nursing a hamstring injury for the first time in his young career.
An injury on Oct. 7 forced Acosta to miss the rest of the regular season and his team’s playoff opener against Seattle, but despite a 32-day layoff that consisted mostly of training individually or in limited sessions with the team, the 20-year-old Homegrown Player was able to string together a marathon performance in the Nov. 8 second leg against Seattle, going the entire 120 minutes.
“There were some moments where I kind of felt it, but at the same time, I was so excited to be out there,” Acosta told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m glad that [head coach Oscar Pareja] gave me the opportunity. Throughout the game, I felt the game was ours to be won, and I wanted to be a part of that no matter what. So I gave it my all, and it all worked out.”
Acosta spent much of last week receiving separate treatment and alternating days at the training facility to help him recover, per team officials. He said his hamstring is still sore and that even he was surprised he was called on for the entire 120 minutes after an arduous month.
“I kept looking at the bench thinking, ‘Hopefully he doesn’t pull me out,’” Acosta said. “But Oscar had confidence in me to continue throughout the game, and I held my own.”
FC Dallas certainly hope Acosta feels good leading up to the Western Conference Championship opener on Sunday against Portland (7:30 pm ET, FS1, FOX Deportes in US, TSN2 in Canada). While the team brought in Argentine midfielder Ezequiel Cirigliano in the summer to provide depth, Acosta adds an element to the Dallas midfield that nobody else on the team is capable of bringing.
“He’s more mobile; he’s more of a box-to-box kind of guy,” defender Matt Hedges told MLSsoccer.com. “He can cover a lot of ground, which is something that’s important in our midfield with two wingers that like to get up and attack. So we need somebody that can do that. He’s a different sort of player. He’s always in good spots because he moves so much.”
Hedges, who has dealt with a hamstring injury of his own this season, was also surprised to see Acosta last the full 120 minutes last Sunday. He said expected “maybe 75 minutes, maximum” given the long layoff.
He wasn’t the only Dallas defender shocked – and impressed – by Acosta’s gutsy performance.
“We knew going into that game how important Kellyn was for us,” defender Zach Loyd told MLSSoccer.com. “He covers so much ground in the middle of the park. For him to be able to play at the level he did, it shows the kind of character he has and the kind of player he is. He can go 90, 120, whatever you ask of him, box to box, getting the job done. It’s awesome having a guy like that on your team.”
The off-week of international play could not have come at a better time for Acosta, giving the Dallas native plenty of time to rest a muscle that can be a tricky injury to navigate. Loyd knows how important Acosta’s presence is for Dallas to reach the MLS Cup final.
“In this league, any team you look at, there’s always a workhorse in the middle, at least for teams that are successful,” Loyd said. “To have a guy like that is like an X-factor for us when he’s in there, and he’s been tremendous all year.”