FRISCO – Hours before FC Dallas’ blowout loss in New York this weekend, midfielder Kellyn Acosta received an e-mail alerting him he was selected to the US men’s national team 40-man preliminary roster for the 2016 Copa America Centenario tournament.
Acosta called the selection an honor, given his short stint during January’s camp with the senior team. But with the selection comes a set of challenges – mainly having to switch back and forth between his natural position, central midfielder, and where coach Jurgen Klinsman has him playing at left back.
"It’s tough. It’s a different shift," Acosta said. "Tactically it’s a lot different playing left back – getting forward, up and down, whereas the midfield spot I’m more on the ball. It’s been kind of difficult, but I think I’m adjusting. It’s just part of the game, and you've got to get used to it."
Previously, FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja expressed frustration with the position switch between club and country to FS1’s Alexi Lalas before a home game against Sporting Kansas City.
Asked about it on Tuesday, Pareja said he recognized the difficulty of switching positions and he understands how a national team coach may have a different opinion.
"It’s a challenge, but at the same time we have to respect the opinion of the coach of the national team who wants to play him there, whether you agree or not," Pareja said. "But Kellyn has played there before ... I think he needs to find a way to adapt to the challenge and to the change when he goes with the national team."
"As much as I prefer him in the middle, sometimes if I need him to play outside, he will play outside," Pareja added. "And actually, we may need him. It’s just patience for a young player and us as coaches too."
Acosta acknowledged it’s been tricky bouncing between positions from club to country but said he’s starting to get a feel for it. In fact, he said he’s been studying the play of his FC Dallas teammates, who have also been asked to bounce from position to position in their careers.
"I’m starting to get used to it," Acosta said. "I’m just glad to get called up to the national team. I’m fortunate enough for the opportunities. I’m just trying to make the most of it wherever I’m at, but it’s a learning game too. I watch guys on here who have been successful, like Maynor [Figueroa], Ryan [Hollingshead], Atiba [Harris], Zach [Loyd] even. So I’m just trying to mimic their games, take what they do in their games, and just kind of implement that into mine."
Acosta has been versatile for FC Dallas this season, even playing more of a No. 10 role when Mauro Diaz was injured earlier in the season. But he has been left out of the Starting XI for the previous two games – both blowout losses on the road.
Still, Pareja said Acosta is at a point in his career where he is really beginning to find his stride, no matter what position he plays.
"I think Kellyn is finding his best game now," Pareja said. "Now the competition in the middle has changed from last year, and that gives me the luxury to pace him and wait for him without rushing, or with Victor [Ulloa] or Carlos [Gruezo] or Juan [Ortiz]. So that’s what has happened. I don’t have any doubt about Kellyn being part of the lineup normally. It’s a normal mode for Kellyn. He’s playing good soccer."