Now 24 years old, Acosta is clearly playing his most consistent football since arriving in D.C. before the 2016 season, while forming a tight on-field bond with superstar teammate Wayne Rooney.
Acosta has seven goals and 12 assists this season. If he continues producing at the pace he has over the last two months, his final offensive numbers could place him in the Landon Donovan MLS MVP discussion.
But just who is Luciano Acosta? Here are 10 things you should know about D.C.’s playmaking dynamo.
Buenos Aires born, Boca bred
Acosta hails from Argentina’s massive capital city. He came of footballing age at Boca Juniors, one of the world’s most famous clubs and the same one that produced Argentine legend Diego Maradona. Acosta’s first-team debut for Boca came in 2014, when he was 19 years old.
More diminutive than Diego
Acosta is listed at 5-foot-3, making him two inches shorter than Maradona. And when he scored his first MLS hat trick in D.C.’s 3-2 win over Orlando City on Aug. 12, Acosta became the second-shortest player in MLS history to register a hat trick behind Cristian Techera of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Acosta originally came to D.C. on loan for the 2016 season. That was actually his second loan spell, after playing the previous year at Estudiantes, the Argentine club that produced longtime Serie A and Premier League stalwart Juan Sebastian Veron.
Making a commitment
After contributing 11 assists and helping D.C. to a red-hot second half of the season and a playoff spot in 2016, D.C. paid Boca a transfer fee to acquire Acosta outright. That was the fulfillment of a commitment that was already shown midway through that season, when D.C. head coach Ben Olsen shifted from a 4-4-2 to a 4-1-4-1 shape to accommodate the Argentine’s playmaking abilities.
Maturing like Mauro
During Acosta’s first two seasons, Olsen and D.C. teammates urged patience as he became accustomed to a new league, country and culture. And several used former FC Dallas playmaker Mauro Diaz as an example.
Sure enough, Acosta is having a breakout second half not long after his 24th birthday, the same age Diaz enjoyed his breakout season with Dallas. Acosta’s seven goals and 12 assists already this season compare favorably to Diaz’s eight-goal, 10-assist 2015 campaign.
Always a No. 10
D.C.’s formation switch is one way Acosta’s club has been determined to recognize his playmaking abilities.
When the club announced the signing of Rooney in June, there was some discussion over whether the Manchester United and England legend would take the No. 10 shirt, which he had worn for large stretches of his club career. Rooney told D.C. United he would wear whatever number the club felt fit, and D.C. opted to give him the No. 9 jersey, letting Acosta keep No. 10.
A giver of nicknames
Acosta gives interviews exclusively in Spanish, but he’s successfully bestowed a new nickname upon his English superstar teammate.
It was after Rooney’s incredible game-saving tackle and cross to set up Acosta’s game-winning goal against Orlando that Acosta dubbed D.C.’s new captain “Señor Wayne.” And the new moniker is catching on in some D.C. circles.
Just call him Lucho
As for a nickname of his own, to his D.C. teammates and fans, Acosta is simply known as “Lucho.”
There have been a couple attempts at a unique nickname, however. In Argentina, Acosta was known as La Joya, or “The Jewel” by some Boca followers. And in a game at LAFC earlier this year, guest analyst Fernando Fiore suggested calling Acosta El Mafioso, in homage to famous Italian-American mobster Lucky Luciano.
A good name for the club
While Acosta is far from the first Argentine to test MLS waters, he is only the second player named Luciano to ply his trade in MLS. D.C. fans will fondly remember the first, Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio, who won the MLS MVP while scoring 20 goals in 2007, and finished with 41 goals in three seasons for the Black-and-Red.
Acosta has already bested a career high with seven goals this campaign, and all of those have come at home. Six goals have come since Rooney’s arrival and the beginning of D.C.’s home-heavy second half.
Going back further, Acosta has scored all but one of his MLS goals for D.C. at home, across three venues. His only goal on the road? It came during D.C.’s inaugural meeting with Atlanta United on April 30, 2017 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, a 3-1 D.C. win.