COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In six seasons of playing in Major League Soccer, midfielder Kellyn Acosta has face every team in the league — with one exception. That will change on Sunday afternoon when he faces former club FC Dallas for the first time in his career and the first time since being traded to Colorado in exchange for forward Dominique Badji back in July.
“A special moment for me,” Acosta said of the chance to face his former team. “It’s going to be weird and a little awkward in a sense, but I’m definitely looking forward to it and it’s going to be a huge one.”
Colorado has been eliminated from playoff contention for more than a month, but the “Decision Day” match still has important implications as the Rapids look to establish a positive identity heading into next season and hope to spoil the visitors’ chance at a first round bye in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We want to finish the year strong, and it’s going to be imperative to do so,” explained Acosta. “They need a strong result for their circumstances in the playoffs. For us, it’s going to be sweeter if we can push them away from their goals.”
The Rapids have been playing arguably some of their better soccer of late, earning points from back-to-back road matches following a win over Minnesota United FC and a draw at San Jose last weekend. It’s boosted the mood in what has otherwise been a disappointing debut campaign for Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson.
“There were two strong performances on the road, and they showed a lot of character,” Hudson said of his team’s recent form. “The mood is good in the camp. The manner of the performances have been positive for me.”
Sunday’s draw at San Jose marked Acosta’s return to the team following his most recent call-up to the United States men’s national team for friendly matches against Columbia and Peru. It was good experience for the 23-year-old, who notched a goal, an assist and an appearance in the starting XI from both matches.
“Definitely playing in high level games like that, I want to bring my experiences back to [the Rapids] and help out in any way possible,” Acosta said. “I got that energy boost and carried it on to the next game and into last weekend against San Jose.”
The Rapids have largely been pleased with the acquisition of Acosta, but are still coming to terms with losing Badji, who remains Colorado’s leading scorer for the 2018 season.
“Badji is a top player. In a perfect world, we’d have Kellyn and Badji,” Hudson said. “But in order for us to progress towards the team we want to be, that had to happen.”
While Hudson and the coaching staff wish their former forward all the best with his current club, Colorado is in full preparation to contain Badji and the rest of the offensive threat that Dallas will bring this weekend. It must start with playing the kind of possessive soccer Hudson has been trying to implement; a style Acosta also thrives on.
“With a guy like Badji, he has some wheels on him,” Acosta explained. “So, you’ve got to be mindful when he wants the ball in behind. Dallas in general is a very counterattack oriented team, so we need to be more mindful when we have the ball. It’s imperative that we have the right numbers in the back to sustain our attack, being mindful of the little details.”
Details and reunions aside, Acosta insists the focus remains unchanged.
“It’s the same mentality,” he said. “Every game we’re looking at getting a result.”