TUCSON, Ariz. – For Kellyn Acosta, each day represents a new opportunity.
The Rapids midfielder was called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team for this week’s friendlies in Europe against Jamaica and Northern Ireland, marking Acosta’s third call-up since December, when he made his first appearance at a USMNT camp in nearly two years.
“For me, I was happy for the opportunity,” Acosta said before departing the Rapids’ preseason camp in Tucson, Ariz. “I put a lot of hours behind the scenes to get to that point and I was happy to get back in the fold.”
Acosta’s invitation comes during a jam-packed calendar year for the USMNT, which will play the Concacaf Nations League Final Four in June, the Gold Cup in July and start qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup later this year.
“It gives you a bit of excitement, especially this year. We have a ton of national team games, a ton of opportunities for players like me to be involved in,” Acosta said. “It’s exciting times ahead. I’m hoping to be a part of it all.”
Acosta earned the call-up thanks to his excellent play with Colorado, where he was a key piece in the Rapids midfield and scored a clutch, game-winning goal in Portland to secure a playoff berth. Acosta played 22 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 win over El Salvador in December and was a starter in a 7-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago—along with Rapids teammates Sam Vines and Jonathan Lewis—in January. Acosta picked up a beautiful assist on Lewis’ second goal in that match.
“He, to me, is a really great example of a guy just plugging away and continuing to improve, continuing to stay focused,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said of Acosta on a virtual press conference last week. “He went about it by playing really well for his club. And then when he got into our environment, he carried that on. It’s a good example of, ‘if you don’t succeed at first, keep trying.’”
Acosta finds himself as one of just three MLS players on a largely European-based USMNT squad, joining New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long and LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget. And with two goals in 25 senior caps, the 25-year-old is also among the most experienced players on the team—a role he has learned to relish with the Rapids.
“In a way, I think it’s imperative for me to teach the young guys,” Acosta said of his role in the locker room. “We have a younger team. I’ve been in those shoes. It was important for me as a young player to have someone to look up to. It’s important for me to be that voice and to help educate the guys and teach the guys that it doesn’t just stop here. Just because you made it to this level, it’s not the end.”
After being a leader for club and country in 2020, Acosta is ready to continue that into the future.
“I’m excited for him in this camp,” Berhalter continued. “I called him and spoke to him, wanted to see where he was at fitness-wise, and he’s been focused. After the January camp he’s been working really hard, so I think this is a great opportunity for him, and it just shows his resiliency and his ability to keep plugging away. A good example for other players.”