One odd thing that has stood out in watching FC Dallas play so far this season has been the second half subbing of Homegrown defender Kellyn Acosta in both games against Montreal and Sporting KC.
In the first game against Montreal it wasn't much of a thought for me but when it happened again this past weekend against SKC, it was time to look into just why new manager Oscar Pareja would continue to do such a thing. In both situations Pareja would sub Acosta for newcomer Andrés Escobar and move Je-Vaughn Watson back into the defense from his right wing spot in the midfield.
Pareja has stated that moving Watson back into the defense was to get more size in the back, but it also makes you wonder what it says about Acosta's game at this stage. Has the second-year Homegrown hit the rookie wall? Yes I know Acosta isn't a rookie here but he didn't come along until midway through last year as a full-time player for this team so in a small way this stage in his career could be the exact moment of a rookie wall hit.
Now I don't think Acosta has been bad in either game this season by any stretch. Maybe it has more to do with playing along side Watson on the right side and less to do with Pareja wanting to get size in the back when he looks to bring Escobar on in the second half.
Acosta has been better more times than not so far this season. His passing has been good out of the back (44 successful passes/15 unsuccessful passes) in those two games. Looking back on the tape of each match he didn't put his team in dangerous spots nearly as often as say Jair Benitez did, or players out of the midfield. The times he was dispossessed or tackled off the ball in his own defensive end were few and far between.
Both times when he was subbed I believe it was more about getting Escobar time on the field more than shifting Watson to the back for size. It isn't like FCD will get bigger once Zach Loyd is healthy and potentially starting back there either. [Note: We'll dive into what Escobar has brought to the table soon enough when our sample size is bigger.]
So what does this all say about Acosta going forward? I think having a veteran like Loyd back to truly push him in the coming weeks is probably what he needs. He hasn't had that extra push for his starting position since late last year when Loyd got healthy in September and October. Those were times that his play really continued to progress and it very well could happen again in that manner here this season too. Or maybe, once Loyd comes back it means he loses his starting spot for a little bit of time.
What do you make of Acosta's play so far this season? Do you think he deserves time on the bench once Loyd is healthy? Do you think the competition with Loyd will help him?