Luciano Acosta quiets doubts of mindset with great DC United season debut

WASHINGTON -- Just a day after the return leg of a disorienting round trip from Florida to France, where a potential head-spinning move to Paris Saint-Germain fell apart as rapidly as it surfaced, Luciano Acosta tried to talk his way into D.C. United’s first preseason game of 2019.

“I wanted to get it out of my head and play and focus on the game,” Acosta explained, through an interpreter.

Coach Ben Olsen turned down the offer. But perhaps that same desire to re-channel thoughts of what almost will bring out the best version of Acosta MLS has seen yet.

In Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Atlanta United to open the season, Acosta was in mid-season form, roaming the pitch at will, connecting onseveral key passes, assisting Paul Arriola’s opening goal with a tenacious play on a corner kick and then adding a goal of his own in the second half.

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That display followed a preseason where he was in the middle of nearly everything good D.C. accomplished, quieting doubts that any disappointment in seeing a move to a UEFA Champions League club fall through would impact his focus.

“When the Paris offer appeared and I went, I was still a player of this club,” Acosta said following Sunday’s performance. “I was always a player of the club. When it didn’t go through, I came back and I tried to be as mature as possible, as responsible as possible to give everything for this club they deserve. And I think I’ve done that.”

Acosta's future is still uncertain, as his contract expires following the 2019 season. He and the club are reportedly in negotiations for an extension.

Teammate Wayne Rooney, no stranger to transfer speculation, knows the best way Acosta can improve his stock is by doing more what D.C. fans saw on Sunday and over the second half of last season. Acosta finished with 10 goals and 17 assists in 2018, after scoring nine times and contributing 10 assists after the midpoint of the campaign.

“His attitude has been fantastic,” Rooney said. “I think he knows himself that he needs to keep performing well if he wants to, if he’s going to get a move to a big club in Europe, he has to perform. It’s as simple as that.”

For Olsen, the episode has proven a maturation that began last season.

“We were all rooting that this kid would go to PSG and be playing in the Champions League, but it didn’t happen,” Olsen said this past Tuesday. “He knows he has a family here as I’ve said before. And to his credit, he’s come back and his professionalism regarding how he’s gone about the job on the field and with his teammates has been very impressive.

“I’ve been very, very impressed with the maturity with which he’s handled the situation,” Olsen continued. “It’s better than I would’ve.”