It's not been a great year so far for FC Dallas homegrown talent Kellyn Acosta. Although the team is doing well in the league, with the exception of a couple away blowouts, it's not been a satisfactory season up until now for the highly regarded 20-year-old. Acosta, who had a very good season last year, hasn't quite played up to those standards since and as a result is largely finding himself sitting on the bench and no longer assured of a starting role that he once had.
Some of that has to do with the off-season acquisition of Ecuadorian international Carlos Gruezo who's been solid since his arrival as well as the form of Acosta's fellow home-grown teammate, Victor Ulloa who has even been captain lately in the absence of the injured Matt Hedges. With those two playing as well as they are and Acosta not quite doing so, it's easy to understand why Kellyn is having a hard time to get starts in his more favored midfield position this year.
But given the growing concerns that are in this team at the moment following back-to-back away blowouts and three already for 2016, talks have been sparked again that Acosta should return to the lineup in some capacity and that he's too talented to sit on the bench. He did show some improvement in his last couple of appearances and may soon be worthy of more chances, especially given how the last two games went, but just where does he come in? There's a few options:
Right-back: Probably the weakest and most problematic area of the team following the departure of Je-Vaughn Watson to New England in March and the fact that FCD don't have a single natural player in this position available. Ryan Hollingshead has filled in well as a stop-gap option so far, but hasn't featured there in the last two games and that may be a sign that he's not the answer for Oscar Pareja in that role. Atiba Harris has gotten a few chances himself, but has largely looked unconvincing and it's unlikely that he'll get the gig full-time himself.
Before the management considers the possibility of going out in the transfer market to find a solution, they still have two players who have played there before who haven't gotten a shot yet. Zach Loyd, who is filling in at central defense for the injured Hedges, and Acosta who almost exclusively played there just two years ago and still plays there on international duty. It's a bit surprising that Pareja hasn't experimented with him there yet, but it may not be long before he gives it a shot and tries to see if Acosta can be the answer to the team's problems in that spot.
Left-back: Acosta has also played here several times during his young career and this may well be a possibility as well, even more so after the events of the last seven days. First, we saw now 34-year old Maynor Figueroa move into central defense to partner Loyd and whether or not it was just done as a ploy to give Walker Zimmerman a rest as part of the team's rotational scheme, it does make you wonder whether or not Pareja sees Figueroa as a LB going forward or not. We may see him more in the middle than on the left from now on, especially for as long as Hedges is out.
Then, we saw the news come in that Moises Hernandez was heading on a season-long loan to Rayo OKC which leaves one less competitor for that role for Acosta to beat out. If Figueroa is set to move into the center of defense, where he plays for his country Honduras, and Hollingshead is going to stay on the right, then maybe this could be an avenue to give Acosta a chance to get some regular playing time.
Defensive/Central midfield: Of course, there is always his favored midfield position to consider as well. Gruezo and Ulloa had a tough time against NYRB last week trying to clean everything up in the middle, a lot of the times on their own, but it's unlikely that Acosta's impact would have been any bigger in what was a collective tactical failure from the team. Gruezo and Ulloa have largely been very good this year and neither deserves to be benched on the basis of their form to date, which is why Acosta is struggling to get games there and why we're having this conversation in the first place.
With that said though, Acosta does offer more going forward than those two do and if the team continues to struggle keeping the ball and linking the midfield with the attack over the coming games, then it'll probably be time to give Kellyn another chance there. His early partnership with Gruezo hasn't quite clicked yet and going back to last year's midfield pairing doesn't make much sense given the weaknesses we saw there when he was paired with Ulloa, not to mention Gruezo's form and raw ability, but with Acosta being able to add another dimension to Dallas' midfield game from an attacking perspective, it is possible that he could be back in the fold there pretty soon. And who knows, perhaps to stay there.
What do you guys think though? Should Kellyn Acosta return to the FCD starting lineup? And if so, where exactly should he? Vote in the poll and reply with some comments in the box below.