The US Men’s National Team has a pair of crucial matches in World Cup qualifying in next week’s international window. Due to some bad results, it could get a little nervy. An injury to DeAndre Yedlin and a positional shift for Fabian Johnson up field does little to settle angst about the defense, but our attack looks like it’s in good hands with starlets Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood both scoring an amazing four goals in their last five games played.
That’s right, folks. Not a trequartista, not an ‘enganche’, not a ‘true #6’ (sorry, Bradley haters)- Kellyn Acosta is an outside back. Well, at least he was in 2013 and before that. And when Oscar ‘Papi’ Pareja took the reins in 2014 in what has to be the greatest one-sided trade in MLS history (with apologies to Axel Sjoberg who was acquired after another pick swap and some GAM from Columbus), Kellyn Acosta remained as an outside back to start the season that began FC Dallas’s 3 year streak in the playoffs which has seen them take more points than any other team in MLS. Acosta would mainly remain a super-talented Swiss Army knife for Dallas until the summer of 2015.
It wasn’t until returning from the U20 World Cup (where he started all but one game as an outside back almost exclusively on the left), that Papi put him in his ‘real’ position full-time (well, almost full-time), and Kellyn established himself as more than an exciting prospect. This was after years where coaches at the FC Dallas Academy, Bradenton, and all levels of the US Youth National Teams determined that, at BEST, they weren’t sure if he translated to the midfield but were confident he’d make an excellent outside back.
This isn’t even the part that really grinds my gears, spins my sprockets, and burns my bushings. After all of the whining and gnashing of teeth like it was an obvious travesty that Acosta was playing as a left back for the US (Despite 2500+ minutes as an outside back for both FC Dallas and 2500+ minutes for the youth national teams- some of which he captained), now I’m seeing something even more insane. People are surprised he got called up. Seriously...do you guys even watch soccer???
When the one coach in all of his development (at the tail end from prospect to pro) decided to commit to him being a central midfielder, he went from a good pro, to a great pro, to one of the elite midfielders in MLS in 2016, and now is doing this, this, this, and this. After all of that, you’re seriously surprised he’s getting called up now to play midfield (HIS REAL POSITION, OBVIOUSLY)?
Ok, so you’re beyond the ‘shock’ like most people. You’ve seen the videos. You know he’s right up there on form with Pulisic, and...you’re going to start him on the bench??? For whom? Jones is suspended. Have any other options who are actually on fire at the moment?
What I’m seeing is a lot of Dax next to Bradley (about 3 years late on that one), Lleget as the box to box player because he’s more experienced player who played a lot in central midfield for Arena in LA (no and he just started playing centrally for Arena last year), and Bedoya (actually makes some sense, but...) paired with Bradley. What I’m not seeing is a clarion call for Acosta.
Again, with this I see skepticism about his experience. Kellyn Acosta was capped 4 times last year by he who must not be named, and even after checking out of January camp with an injury, he has more caps since the beginning of 2016 than McCarty and Lleget combined. Perhaps caps outside of his ‘real position’ don’t count in the eyes of the masses and pundits (THANKS ALOT KLINSMANN...ah shit).
Here’s the thing; as nice as Kellyn’s hot streak of scoring is, chances are he won’t end up duplicating Michael Bradley’s 20 goals across all competitions for Hereenveen in 2007-2008, and it doesn’t matter. What he brings in range, physicality, skill, and toughness compares well with what Jermaine Jones brings to the table, and it’s kind of nuts to me that he’s not the prohibitive favorite as the heir apparent. For a player like Jones, who has been uniformly valued by the last 3 national team coaches, it could not be a more obvious opportunity for Acosta.
For all of those so desperate for him to replace Bradley, it may very well come some day, but it won’t be in the immediate future and certainly not before the World Cup in Russia. As of now, he’s an ‘8’, and he’s also far and away on the best form of any similar player in the pool. This didn’t come out of thin air- this is his 5th year in the league. He and Gruezo were pretty easily the best center midfield combination in the league last year, and he’s started the season eclipsing last year’s outstanding form. He has loads of experience playing for the national teams, and he has a similar amount playing against the Yanks’ upcoming CONCACAF foes. Still, I’m reading plenty of surprise that he even made the team.
So when he starts the crucial home match against Honduras on the 24th, please don’t act shocked- he’s earned it. However, if Acosta doesn’t start against Honduras, then you have to ask why. You’d certainly be beside yourself if Pulisic started on the bench (as would I). You know you’d be furious if Klinsmann didn’t start him, or worse, played him OUT OF POSITION at left back. With that in mind, why would you give Arena a pass on not playing the hottest player in the pool? Frankly, I’m pretty sure Arena sees it and puts him in the XI; I’m just scratching my head why more folks aren’t connecting the dots. Seriously- what more do you want?
Byrd’s Ballers: (Round 2. 3-1-1, Season 6-3-1)
- David Villa- F $10.2
- Nicolas Lodeiro- M $11.1
- Diego Valeri- M $10.1
- Maxi Morález- M $9.2
- Ignacio Piatti M $10.2
Top 1000 finish is a decent start for me, but pales in comparison to the 115 (even with a zero from Davies- I warned you) bagged by Furies to lead the BDS league last round and for the season. Kjlestan was my only pick last round that didn’t sizzle, although you could quibble with that since Gio Dos Santos came off injured. I’m not marking in red on that one.
Take another spin with Villa and Nacho at Yankee Stadium, and you can probably add Villa’s cohort Maxi Morález to the fun this round, too. Lodeiro is worth the price this week and has scored well given the fact he’s played 2 on the road. You can probably add either Dempsey or Morris if you want to go long on the home opener. This is likely the same for their Cascadia bunkmates Portland this week. Valeri’s the #1 player in fantasy so far and can easily be paired with a sweet Blanco or a precocious Adi. No weekly Honduran this time, although it’s worth noting they all scored last week, and I picked the lesser of the two. Quioto is serious business, folks.
Skinflint’s Specials: (Round 2 3-2-0, Season 6-4-0)
- Dominique Badji F $6.4
- Kellyn Acosta M $6.9
- Ike Opara D $5.2
- Derrick Jones M $4.5
- Marco Farfan D $4.1
Unlike with GDS, I’ll take the loss on Boateng. Royer, too, although he hits his number last week if Eric Miller didn’t do New York’s bidding for him. We’re shaking this list up a bit with Round 2’s skinflints all on the road.
I’m wary of the Minnesota bounce back. You’d have a hard time telling that by my lineup, but Badji’s just too good to resist at that price and with Minnesota’s uncertain backline. They’ll get it together and play ugly soon, so I’m hedging Badji with the switcheroo. His somewhat obvious counterpart is Marco Farfan, who is bottom dollar with a home game and looks like he’ll start again with Vytautas Andriuskevicius unlikely to suitup again.
My ‘Derrick Jones Special’ this week is Julian Gressel. He’s locked down one of the central midfield spots in Atlanta and should offer a reasonable floor for the price at home. This allows me extra dough around the lineup, although I can still stay cheap with Opara and count my profits with a cigar clenched between my teeth.
Finally, you didn’t think I’d go on a huge rant about Kellyn and leave him out of picks this round, did you? It’s the home opener, and I think it’s pretty reasonable to be bullish on Dallas this weekend. I think you’ll end up seeing most of the gang who started against Pachuca this week, and that’s one of the best teams in MLS playing at home against a New England side that probably will still be searching for sharpness and match fitness. The club doesn’t play another game for 2 weeks, so I can’t imagine they’ll hold anything back here.
Well, that’s all I have this weekend. The most important takeaways should be
- Kellyn is awesome, in general. If you’re going to worry about his ‘real’ position, please know what it is.
- If Arena doesn’t start Kellyn against Honduras, he should be shitcanned
- Put Kellyn in your fantasy lineup.
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