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Behind the scenes of the Kellyn Acosta trade with FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo

Jul 28, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta (10) misses a penalty kick during the first half against the D.C. United at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas — It has been more than a week since FC Dallas sent homegrown and United States men’s national team player Kellyn Acosta to the Colorado Rapids for Dominique Badji and assets.

Badji is expected to come to Dallas on Tuesday night after receiving his green card, while Acosta scored for the Rapids in the team’s 2-1 lost at D.C. United during the weekend. 

FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo talked about the decision to move Acosta, which began at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game, where he said he thought Acosta played hurt.

“Colorado called, there was a lot of teams calling us too,” Clavijo said. “Always calling, not only about Kellyn, but a lot of players. Again, we didn’t feel at the time we could sell Kellyn as we saw him as a future star of the U.S. He has a great ability to become that, but for a little bit he’s not been playing his level for many reasons, some of them that he probably knows and I don’t. But since he went to the All-Star Game last year against Real Madrid, I think that he was a little hurt, and when he came back he wasn’t the same. Then all season, we measured the options that we do because he had some signs of a sports hernia, and we decided after the season to operate. With all the doctors, we met three or four times. It was the best decision for him.  Hopefully [Kellyn would be] ready to start the season. He was, but it took him longer to get back to his level. Still, we never changed how we felt about Kellyn, it took time to get to that level.”

Dallas currently sits in first place in the Western Conference and has been vocal about searching for another forward to potentially pair with Urruti. Badji was a target for the team for a while and the emergence of the Victor Ulloa-Carlos Gruezo partnership opened up the possibility of trading away Acosta. Brandon Servania, a prospect FC Dallas has been high on, also had an impact on whether Acosta was expendable. 

Jul 28, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta (10) misses a penalty kick during the first half against the D.C. United at Audi Field. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

“We’re in first place, we have the window,” Clavijo said.  “What do we do? We’re looking for a forward, and I always inquire on Badji. Of course, like everyone inquires about our players. We were missing one part, and it was that. That comes to talk to Colorado again, we go back and we felt, ‘You know what? In our midfield, what we need I think we have.’ When you look at our roster, probably you won’t even know some of the kids like Brandon Servania from the academy and coming up. Our vision is to give younger players the opportunity, like we did to Kellyn, and hopefully bring him to the forefront. So we will have cover, in that we have Gruezo, Victor Ulloa — we have these players that can cover us right away.”

Last summer, Acosta rumors persisted around FC Dallas, but all about a move to Europe. When asked if there was any concrete offer from any club, Clavijo, like Pareja and FCD President Dan Hunt, said there was not.

“There was not an official offer for Kellyn Acosta to the team,” Clavijo said. “There was not. That was 100 percent correct. We talked about it with agents — his agent — doing this, doing that, doing things, yes, but there was never an offer we had to say no to. There was never. I always request, ‘Send me an offer to send to the owner. Let me send it to the owner.’ I would give the owner my input to see what to do, but at the end of the day the owners made decisions in regards to who is going, who is coming. There was never an official offer coming into the club.”

Acosta never demanded a trade Clavijo says, but voiced that he would be open to a trade with no European offers on the table. The two had a meeting, called by Clavijo because he felt something was up, hoping he could aid the young player in some way to help Acosta get back to his 2017 form. It was a very frustrating first half of the season for him, and a change of scenery was needed for both sides.

“No,” Clavijo said when asked if Acosta demanded a trade. “He never really demanded. We tried to figure out how can we get him back to this level. And I asked him, ‘I don’t have an offer from anywhere. I don’t have anything. Would you be interested in being in a trade?’ ‘Yes.’ So we left it there. We kept talking. We kept talking. We got what we want, and I know that Colorado got a very good player that is gonna make a lot of things happen. I’m excited because I think both teams benefitted at the end of the day.”

Clavijo emphasized how difficult the decision was for the club. Acosta was the model homegrown, a player coach Oscar Pareja called his son. However, he believes Acosta still has the tools to become the player he was.

Feb 23, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta (23) is hugged by teammates after scoring his second goal of the match against Arabe Unido during the second half at Toyota Stadium. FC Dallas won 4-0. (Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)

“Believe me, it was not an easy decision for us because not only do we feel that Kellyn has everything to make it to the next level, he was the first player that I signed when I came to FC Dallas, so he’s more than just a player,” Clavijo said. “It was not just trading a player, it was trading somebody who we feel very close to, so it was difficult, very, very, very difficult. But I think at the end of the day, taking all of the things, the emotional decisions and what we got for it, it was the right thing to do for us, and I hope that Kellyn picks up right away. He has everything, he has all the tools to be a bigger player, and it would happen. So for us, it was important to make sure that we are compensated accordingly.

“It was very difficult, very, very, very difficult, but I think when we take away the emotional part, we made the team better. We made moves, giving opportunities to younger players.”

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