FRISCO, Texas – Although Kellyn Acosta has steadily improved since signing a Homegrown contract with FC Dallas four and half years ago, his performance Thursday night suggested he may just be scratching the surface of his potential.
Acosta netted a brace in FC Dallas' 4-0 throttling of Arabe Unido at Toyota Stadium in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
And even for someone who has continuously stepped up his game and become a versatile, rangy player FC Dallas can rely on, it was an attention-grabbing 90 minutes.
"Kellyn's maturing for sure," FCD coach Oscar Pareja said. "You can see his game a little more composure in the last third. When he had those two options, I thought he took one or two seconds more to think about what he was going to do."
Acosta has shown those flashes of greatness throughout the early years of his career, earning himself a steady spot in the starting XI and a few US national team call-ups. But has yet to become a consistent scoring force as a central midfielder.
"In the offseason, I kind of sat back and reflected on the last season where I had a lot of chances but didn't capitalize," Acosta said. "Coaches stressed on me to hit the frame, and good things happen with the frame. Luckily both my shots were on target, so hopefully my teammates can continue to find me so I can keep capitalizing."
A more focused Acosta is something FC Dallas hopes will become the norm. They've been used to his range for years now, but adding that next gear is something that could not only make up for Diaz's absence, but possibly even improve the team from their 2016 Supporters’ Shield campaign.
"I think that's the next step for me. I find myself in good spots, but sometimes I'm more passive and look for the pass," Acosta said. "That's where I need to be more selfish in that aspect so I can help my teammates and help capitalize more."
Slowly but surely, Acosta is becoming a young veteran. While still approaching his potential, he is becoming a respected presence on the pitch and in the locker room.
Pareja sees it too, and believes Thursday night is not just a flash in the pan.
"The hecticity we had before is being improved," Pareja said. "I see a really mature guy who still needs to be polished, and he knows. But I think not just the league, but this country has a phenomenal player right there."