On Wednesday night, Acosta validated the call-up.
He scored the game-winner in FCD’s 2-1 win in Leg 1 of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Pachuca, curling a 58th-minute free kick into the right corner to give Dallas the advantage heading into the second leg of the series in Mexico on April 4.
The goal was Acosta’s fourth goal in five matches across all competitions so far in 2017, a stat that should give USMNT head coach Bruce Arena something to think about ahead of the US’s opening qualifier against Honduras at Avaya Stadium on March 24.
“Hopefully he pays mind to that,” Acosta said in jest when asked if he thought Arena was watching. “I was happy for the call and grateful for the opportunity, and hopefully can continue that and hopefully get some minutes in qualifiers as well.”
Acosta was primarily used as a left back under former USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann – a position less familiar to the 21-year-old than his usual central midfield spot.
But with his flurry of scoring and consistent improvement at the position, Acosta is not only making the case for Arena to play him more in the midfield, but possibly to even put him in the US’s starting XI.
“I think he’s a phenomenal player, and America has a fantastic midfielder there,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said after Wednesday’s match. “I know Kellyn enough to know he will keep his feet on the ground knowing the journey is really long, and I hope for him he keeps helping the team and helping himself with these kinds of performances.”
Teammate Walker Zimmerman also received a call-up to the US’s World Cup qualifying roster on Wednesday. He’s played with Acosta since they were both rookies in 2013, and knows just how much potential his teammate has.
“He’s so talented, and we’ve seen it the whole time he’s been here,” Zimmerman said. “Just watching his growth, not only from a playing standpoint but confidence and reading the game and putting himself in really good spots. Obviously, I think he’s being a little more aggressive by trusting his shot a little more.
“He’s proving to himself that he can do it and that he can make these kind of finishes that are difficult from the top of the box, outside of the box. For him, I’m excited and looking forward to competing with him on the national team as well.”
Acosta said he’s excited that things seem to be coming together for him and that he’s translating his prolific scoring from his days with the FCD academy to the first-team.
His head coach is just happy Acosta is making his presence felt every week, and not just in flashes anymore.
“Consistency is difficult – it’s the one thing that’s difficult to achieve for sure,” Pareja said. “Kellyn has not just been consistent in scoring goals, but he’s very consistent at his performance, which made us more proud. I hope for him he continues with this path.”