Last Thursday, Kellyn Acosta gave US fans a nice 29 minute appearance in a warm up of sorts before the momentous match at Azteca. In that short period of time, critics were calling for Acosta to get the start next to Michael Bradley and if all goes well, for him to replace the tactically foolish Jermaine Jones in the USMNT lineup.
After last night’s performance, Jones should never be given a look for the Red, White and Blue again.
Same Engine, Better Brain, Better Skills
When Jones burst onto the USMNT scene, his motor and tenacity was an element that was missing in the midfield engine for the Yanks. However, his pairing with Michael Bradley often brought painful reminders that sometimes you cannot just throw the best 11 out on the field and hope for things to work out. Jones’ maverick tendencies often left Bradley stranded on an island and constantly put the USMNT midfield and defense in perilous positions.
On one hand, the rest of the midfield and defense could adjust and move with Jones, but it was evident and clear that the rest of the guys were not having any of it. If Jones is to maraud through the field, he was going to do it alone.
Bradley’s lead on the team’s endurance scale is undisputed, but he may have a match in Kellyn Acosta. Acosta’s motor is absolutely insane. It’s not brought up very much because you don’t see him doing several lung-busting runs in quick session during games. Most of that is because he’s positioned himself well to not have to rely on his athleticism to compensate (in the same way Jones does all too often).
Acosta, defensively, is just as reliable and strong. He doesn’t use brute physical force to crunch in the tackles in the same way Jones does, but Acosta is no slouch when he needs to make a stop.
Notice how Acosta’s defensive actions are basically a flat line. Given how deep the defense was playing, Acosta positioned himself as a shield to the backline and stayed tethered to Bradley and Geoff Cameron, making sure he’s connected with them at all times to provide support and an outlet.
Acosta didn’t do very much going forward in this one, but that wasn’t what was asked of him either. He stayed with Bradley and the backline. He got the ball out wide when possible and constantly made himself available - something that Jones doesn’t have the discipline to do.
And did everyone notice who had the free kick responsibilities for USMNT? That’s right. Our boy Acosta.
On top of matching Jones’ engine and defensive work rate, Acosta has better tactical awareness and discipline and also a better free kick too. At this point, Acosta’s name needs to be at least in the 18 from here on out. Jones had his run, now it’s Acosta’s turn.