Kellyn Acosta has been in the U.S. program since the U-14 age level, having represented the USA at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup as well as both the 2013 and 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cups. On Sunday, the 20-year-old made his senior MNT debut in a 3-2 win against Iceland.
“I’m just really excited; I’m glad I got the opportunity from [MNT head coach] Jurgen [Klinsmann],” Acosta said after the match. “It was a great feeling being out there representing my country at the highest level. I was really excited, ecstatic.”
Acosta started the match at left back alongside veteran defenders Matt Besler, Michael Orozco and Brad Evans. It was a position he was familiar with since he played there in last summer’s U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
“I just felt a little timid at first. I just didn’t want to make any mistakes,” Acosta said. “But I felt more and more comfortable as the game went on. The second half, I felt like I was breezing by it – I wanted the ball, I was trying to find myself in good spots, be open for my teammates, and I tried to set up some plays. As the game went on, I felt like I was more in tune.”
MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann noted Acosta’s comfort level in his first senior camp despite being the youngest player on the roster.
“We know Kellyn, and obviously from his potential he can play left or right back, but also as a six,” Klinsmann said afterwards. “He impressed in training. He was very calm, he was very mature for his age, and that was his opportunity. It took him a few minutes but he was rewarded for these three weeks of really good work and quality.”
A product of the FC Dallas Academy who is entering his fourth season with his hometown club, Acosta spoke like a veteran when assessing the match.
“This is the highest level – the National Team – and everyone dreams of being here,” he said. “The game was exactly what I expected. I knew the game was going to be tough, it was going to be back and forth. I think we controlled most of the game and had most of the possession. We had two lapses of concentration where they ended up scoring two goals on us. We can do better in that aspect. But that’s part of the game. We bounced back and did a tremendous job and ended up getting the win.”
One of nine players in camp eligible for the U-23 MNT, Acosta’s first senior cap has potentially set him up for further action with the top MNT programs throughout the year.“After he settled his nerves after 10-15 minutes, he really played like he belonged on this team,” Klinsmann said. “It was really, really fun to watch.”