In just about every sense, it’s been a remarkable winter for Kellyn Acosta.
The midfielder took part in several US men’s national team camps and got traded from the Colorado Rapids to LAFC for what could reach $1.5 million in General Allocation Money – after which he lamented via Twitter that his old club “pushed me out” and ignored transfer interest from clubs abroad. He then capped it all with possibly his best-ever international performance, orchestrating the USMNT’s crucial 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Honduras amid record-breaking cold in Minnesota, his 48th cap.
“Yeah, it's been a bit of a crazy kind of offseason,” Acosta said in Los Angeles on Tuesday as he addressed the media for the first time since joining his new team. “Well, I guess I didn't really have much of an offseason, with camps going on in December, to being traded, playing with the national team.
“For me, it's just one of those things where you’ve got to just adapt and conquer,” he continued. “I thought I had a decent performance against Honduras, but it’s something I need to build on. I think consistency is what I need most. And that should be the baseline performance from here on out.”
As clearly as he expressed his frustrations with the Rapids at the time of his departure, the FC Dallas academy product was forward-focused as he got introduced to new LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo and his squad.
“I was really excited to link up with Carlitos [Vela] and Brian [Rodriguez] and Chicho [Arango], those are guys that I'm going to be feeding the ball a lot,” said Acosta. “I'm very keen on working with them and just being with them in training has been great. And then obviously, learning a lot from a US national team legend, Steve Cherundolo, it's great just absorbing all the information he's given me and kind of hearing his experiences from at the club level, national team level. So I've been learning a lot.”
That mindset even applied to the juicy prospect of facing his previous club on opening day (Feb. 26) of the regular season later this month, which Acosta called “business as usual” and “just another game” despite the circumstances of his exit. As he embarks on what could be a pivotal season in a World Cup year, though, his interest in an experience overseas remains.
“I'm an LAFC player, and I'm putting my best foot forward and giving everything I have for the badge and helping my teammates any which way possible. Ultimate goal is to win MLS Cup, and I'm here to do that,” said Acosta, who is in the first of two option years on his current contract. “Europe has always been a dream of mine. And hopefully, I can achieve that down the line.”
Cherundolo declined to address Acosta’s split with Colorado, preferring to emphasize the talented 26-year-old’s value to his own project.
“What Kellyn brings to this group is – we saw in the final game with the US team – his ability in midfield to make key passes, inside passes as we like it, to connect the backline with the front three,” said LAFC’s first-year boss, who plans to use Acosta as a No. 6, No. 8 or something in between, depending on the scenario.
“And the obvious weapon that we all see are set pieces. So on top of that, he has a very big motor and engine, he’ll cover a lot of ground and build a park, which is important for our style of play as well. So his attributes will add to this team and fit this team, in my opinion, like a glove.”
Acosta joins LAFC after 2019 Best XI midfielder Eduard Atuesta joined Brazil's Palmeiras this offseason for a reported $4 million fee, portending the shoes he could fill. The Black & Gold have also reinforced their midfield group by signing longtime Sporting Kansas City stalwart Ilie Sanchez in free agency.
Crepeau patches GK issue
Now-Toronto FC boss Bob Bradley has moved on, as have 10 members of last year’s squad (sold, traded or released) over the winter. And only a handful of LAFC’s 2019 Supporters’ Shield-winning side remains today.
The Black & Gold nonetheless retain a potent cachet around MLS, based on the words of their other newcomer introduced on Tuesday, goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.
“Honestly, I was ready for that new chapter with the organization who has the mindset of winning,” said the Canadian international, who arrived from Vancouver via a trade brought on by his request to the Whitecaps for a move. “Even though it's [only] five years in the league, [LAFC] have that winning mentality and the culture of winning within the organization and their fans. So it's fantastic timing, there was some great additions in the offseason and so now it's about to glue everything together and get ready for that campaign.”
Crepeau and Whitecaps leadership have shared few details about his reasons for leaving. VWFC sporting director Axel Schuster alluded last month to “a very special personal situation he [Crepeau] is dealing with” and that “Max would have a hard time to return and that he would not feel good being here.”
That proved serendipitous for LAFC, who happily shipped a package of allocation money and other assets in excess of $1 million to procure “one of the top keepers in this league,” in Cherundolo’s words.
“We spoke before Christmas, and then there was some stuff going on as well in Vancouver before my move here to LA. And so the best fit for me, for my career and for what I want to achieve, LA was interested,” said Crepeau, noting his admiration for the “proper football atmosphere” he’d encountered on away days at Banc of California Stadium.
“That was the best solution for me, for my career, to develop as a goalkeeper and to gain a lot of experience in that league. That was the next step forward for me, this is how I see it.”
Like Acosta, Crepeau harbors ambitions to test himself in one of Europe’s elite leagues. He envisions himself at LAFC “for the years to come,” however.
“It’s an established MLS club, I’m going on 28 in May. And so to be fair, my goal is to be one of the guys that can bring the club into the playoffs and fight for silverware every single year, be that core group of guys for the organization that can make it happen,” he said. “I want to be here for the club to make something great, to write history. And then if there's an opportunity overseas in one, two, three, five years, and it makes sense for everybody, of course, I mean, to play European competition is the dream of pretty much every athlete. But my focus is here at LAFC.”