FRISCO, Texas — Tuesday was the first training for FC Dallas since the blockbuster Kellyn Acosta trade, which sent him to Colorado in exchange for Dominique Badji and assets.
Teammates and staff talked about what Accosta — who already suited up for his new team when the Rapids played Argentine club Boca Juniors in a friendly Tuesday night — meant to the club and how they will miss him.
Acosta’s Dallas roommate Kris Reaves said it was emotional seeing his close friend switch teams.
“Kellyn was a teammate here,” Reaves said. “He was getting back into things this season. Whatever his decision between him and the coaches were, they made it. What’s best for the club is ultimately what’s best for Kell too. Hopefully, this decision makes him happy, and I know things will work out with him. He’s a special player. We miss him at the house greatly and he was a big part of the team, but at the end of the day, between an individual and the club, those are decisions they have to make. We wish everyone in the process well.”
Fellow homegrown Reggie Cannon echoed Reaves’ sentiment and was sad to see one of FC Dallas’ model players who grew up in the system go elsewhere.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Cannon said. “Kellyn was here for 10 years and he gave everything he had to this club. It’s a sad day to see him go, but I have no doubt he is going to excel his career and move onto the next step.”
Midfielder Jacori Hayes also lived with Reaves and Acosta. He had a very close bond with Acosta, who helped him on the field and off it, especially when Hayes first arrived in Dallas.
“It’s tough,” Hayes said. “He was an important player to this team. For me personally, a good, close friend, but it’s one of those things that are part of soccer. Guys move on, they progress in their careers. So, I wish him all the best. I’m still keeping in contact with him, so it’s not like I lost him forever. It’s one of those things where I wish him the best and hopefully it propels him in his career where he wants to go.”
Jul 26, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; United States midfielder Kellyn Acosta (23) against Jamaica during the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Acosta’s departure could mean more playing time for Hayes, who is now the primary backup for either Carlos Gruezo or Victor Ulloa. However, Hayes noted that it’s not guaranteed, and this will push him harder during training.
“I’m just going to keep working every day,” Hayes said. “Hopefully, it leads to more playing time but I still have to go out there every day and prove myself.”
For FCD coach Óscar Pareja, the situation is tough as well. Pareja watched Acosta grow through the academy system during his time as an academy director and head coach, but he needed to do what was best for the team.
“We have a lot of gratitude for what Kellyn has done for the club and what he represented for us, starting with him 10 years ago,” Pareja said. “The game taught us that it’s dynamic, that it moves on and that the players have their own goals and objectives — and coaches also — but at the end, the club will stay forever and some other players will be developed. At the end, we choose what is best for the team at the moment to pursue our goal this year, and we thought that was the step to it.”
Along with playing time for Hayes, Dallas could have a homegrown midfield competition between Brandon Servania, who is a No. 8 and an ideal replacement for Acosta, and Paxton Pomykal, who has received minutes this season as well. Both were with the United States under-20 side this past weekend for a training camp in Raleigh, N.C.
“Yeah,” Pareja said when asked if Servania or Pomykal could compete for those minutes. “I think it’s an opportunity for them also to get minutes, to fight for a spot like they have done so far but now with more room. It’s an opportunity for the youngsters, yes.”
In return for Acosta, Dallas acquired Dominique Badji, a player who had seven goals in 16 matches for Colorado this season. Pareja emphasized the lack of transition period Badji needs to the league and the United States, creating a feeling that the move was partly made to aid their chances at MLS Cup in 2018.
“Dominique is a player who I think has instincts in the back that we need in this part of the season,” Pareja said. “We would like to have somebody who can help us in that regard. He has shown the league as well that he has goals and speed and he’s adapted to the league. he understands the league very well. He has been already playing in that position for two-three years consistently. For me, sometimes that is easier instead of bringing in somebody who needs adaption time and all those things. Dominique will bring his energy, his speed and hopefully, many goals.”