COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In more than two decades of playing soccer professionally, Colorado Rapids team captain and goalkeeper Tim Howard has seen plenty of players come and go. But Howard believes the Rapids’ new addition and U.S. National Team teammate Kellyn Acosta is something special.
“Kellyn genuinely is a superstar,” Howard told reporters following Acosta’s introductory press conference at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Monday. “It’s frightening to see. He was right on the cusp of breaking into the first XI with the National Team. He was coming on at the Gold Cup as massive player for us. He’s just special. You talk about Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah; Kellyn is part of that trifecta. These are young, brilliant American players who will hopefully fulfill a potential.”
Following the Rapids’ trade for Acosta in exchange for forward Dominique Badji, a humbled Howard called the move one of the best in Rapids’ history, even superseding his own blockbuster signing with Colorado during the 2016 summer transfer window.
“This is a mega trade for us,” emphasized Howard. “This is probably the biggest acquisition this club has had in the last decade. I don’t think you get much return on me. You get a ton of return on Kellyn.”
In Acosta, Colorado acquire a box-to-box threat who cannot just score goals, but can provide additional defensive support in front of Howard. As both Howard and Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson explained, the 22-year-old midfielder is a complete package.
“He loves the spotlight,” Howard continued. “I was afraid of it when I was young. These kids are special. He wants to have the ball. He can defend, he can attack, he’s good on the ball. His passing is fantastic and he’s a really good free kick taker. He’s going to shine here in Colorado.”
Hudson likewise offered praise for the Rapids’ new addition, saying that Acosta would offer the club a “lift”, both on the pitch and in the locker room.
“He’s a young player but also a very experienced player,” he said. “He’s been in the U.S. National Team, played in big environments like the Azteca. He’s a much needed, experienced footballer.”
Nonetheless, it’s been a downturn year for Acosta, who struggled with injury, playing time and production over the past 18 months in Dallas. But Howard is hopeful that Acosta can carry the load moving forward, not just for the Rapids, but for American soccer.
“In my experience coming back to MLS, the way to build a team is to have as many guys who are self-motivated as possible,” said Howard. “Motivation comes from a whole lot of different places, but as far as Kellyn is concerned, he wants to be part of the National Team that gets us back to prominence and he is part of that.”
Often in sports, there isn’t room for two winners. But early evaluation from those around MLS, including Howard, indicated that the early-week trade between FC Dallas and Colorado was a win-win for all parties.
Said Howard, “Dallas is very happy with what they got and we’re very happy with what we got so that’s how you have to look at the trade.”