10 Things: FC Dallas' versatile Kellyn Acosta on playing for his childhood MLS idol

FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta may be just 20 years old, but he's already got three full seasons as a professional and more than 50 appearances in MLS under his belt. Despite that experience, 2015 was truly a breakout season for Acosta, as he made a regular role in FCD's central midfield his own. As the 2016 season approaches, learn more about the young professional and rising US national team talent. 

A True Homegrown

Acosta was born at Plano Medical Center – a mere 13 miles away from FC Dallas’ home of Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. He is the closest thing to being a “true” Homegrown FC Dallas has, with Wylie native Victor Ulloa the next closest in proximity.

Playing For Papi

Having grown up in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Acosta spent some time following FC Dallas (and even its previous identity as the Dallas Burn). His favorite player to watch on the local club? His current head coach, Oscar Pareja.

“He was a fiery guy. He was much smaller than most of the guys, but he never backed down and was kind of everywhere,” Acosta said of watching Pareja play. “He just stood out to me – constantly on the ball, scored a few goals.”

Outside of the Dallas landscape, Acosta said his favorite player was Ronaldinho.

Versatility Is My Thing

Although he has settled in nicely as a central defensive midfielder, Acosta has played every position on the field at some point in his career, dating back to his youth club days. He even had a brief stint in goal once during youth club soccer, thanks to his ‘keeper getting a red card.

“Not my thing. I couldn’t take a ball to the face,” he said, turning his head away and covering his face jokingly. He did, however, say he made a save. “I didn’t have to do much.”

Don't Know What They're Missing

It may not be a story as dramatic as NBA legend Michael Jordan getting cut from his high-school team, but Acosta can probably sympathize. Despite standing out from a young age, Acosta wasn’t always given an opportunity to see the field. In fact, he did not see the field as a starter on his high-school junior varsity team due to what he calls “politics.”

“I thought ‘This is a joke,’” Acosta said. “I was also playing for FC Dallas and the national team as well, so it’s just like ‘Whatever, I guess. I don’t know what I have to do to play.’ I was only there for like a month before I went to [US Soccer's Bradenton] residency, so it didn’t really matter much.”

Sacrifices Were Made

Once Acosta’s soccer career began to blossom, it started to eat into his social life, including the high-school traditions of homecoming and prom. Acosta never got to attend either big dance in high school due to academy training and national team work, but he doesn’t regret it too much.

“It’d be cool to experience that, but I’m alright with where I’m going,” Acosta said.

Still A College Boy

Acosta may not be the typical 20-year-old that spends his days attending class, eating at a university union or attending fraternity/sorority mixers, but he’s still enrolled in college despite being a full-time professional athlete. Acosta currently takes online classes for Southern New Hampshire University and hopes to get a degree in business studies and sports management.  He said he is taking two classes with the same deadlines as your typical college student: Thursdays for discussion posts, Sundays for homework assignments.

Acosta is also participating in a “day in the life” project for the university, where he uses a GoPro to document his day as a professional athlete and college student.

Can't Get Enough Chipotle

The 20-year-old is one of five FC Dallas homegrown players who has a coveted “Chipotle Homegrown Card,” which gives owners of a card a free Chipotle meal any day of the year. Acosta loves it so much, he even had to think twice when a teammate asked him if he'd trade it in for an MLS Cup win. What's his go-to order? Chicken, white rice, sour cream, medium salsa.

Tastes Just Like Home

Chipotle isn’t Acosta’s pregame meal of choice, however. Before every home game, Acosta eats five-cheese ziti with shrimp from Olive Garden. It’s become such a staple for him that the team’s trainers even try their best to replicate Acosta’s habit on the road – the opposite of what the trend usually is.

“That works for Kellyn. It makes him feel good,” said FC Dallas head athletic trainer Skylar Richards. “We try to figure out how on the away meals we can make that more like his home meal.”

Welcome To The International Game

After working his way up the ranks in the youth camps, Acosta made his senior US national team debut in January against Iceland, starting at left back. The 20-year-old said the camp was actually not as intense as he thought it would be, but still was nothing but grateful for the chance to accomplish a lifelong dream.

It did, however, still take him a while to shake off the feeling of being star-struck, being around the likes of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.

“It just kind of hit me like, ‘Wow. I’m actually here with these guys,’” Acosta said. “I had played against them, obviously, but I never thought I’d get called up, at least not this soon. I mean I was hoping to, but it was pretty crazy and pretty surreal that I got the opportunity.”

Blue Samurai Ties?

Acosta could have played for the Japanese national team if he wanted to. His grandmother is of Japanese heritage, and his father was born in Japan, giving Acosta the chance to play for Japan. Although he is not yet cap-tied to the US, it looks like he'll be staying with the Yanks for good, given his call-up to the USMNT this year.

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