With the MLS free agency window now officially open, clubs around the league will begin making pitches to some of the most sought-after players who are looking for a new challenge.
Some of these high-profile free agents include the likes of Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau, U.S. defender Miles Robinson, Venezuelan attacker Josef Martínez, and German left-back Kai Wagner. Although Toronto FC could use all of those guys listed, the most logical free agent the Reds’ front office should approach is defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta.
Acosta most recently spent the past two seasons of his career with LAFC, a rewarding stretch as he won the 2022 Supporters Shield and MLS Cup and reached the MLS Cup final again this year. He started 53 matches in MLS action, amassing a total of just over 3,000 minutes in those two years.
Prior to playing in Los Angeles, Acosta plied his trade with the Colorado Rapids from mid-2018 to 2021 and was a mainstay in their midfield. Before he found himself in “The Centennial State” (via trade that saw striker Dominique Badji go the other way), Acosta was a homegrown player with FC Dallas. He rose through the ranks of their academy and signed a first-team deal in 2018.
He also has 58 caps for the USMNT, with whom he has won two CONCACAF Gold Cups and played at last year’s World Cup.
Why should Toronto FC consider signing him? There are a multitude of reasons.
Acosta can be TFC’s new stalwart. Having just lost their club captain, Michael Bradley (who was also a defensive midfielder), the Reds desperately need to fill that gap. Brandon Servania showed promise in that role when he played there, but he is still young and needs more experience to grow and improve.
Acosta has become a proven and reliable midfielder in MLS during stints with multiple Western Conference clubs. He knows the league and its nuances well and is not a one-dimensional player. Defending and winning back possession are his main skills, but he has an offensive mindset and likes to push forward and attack with the wingers on either side, as he became accustomed to the 4-3-3 system with LAFC.
Acosta has previously described his playing style as “a hard-working, technical player. I can create space, strike with both feet and love to score goals.”
2022 was his best offensive output in a season, finding the back of the net three times and adding five assists. Goals are always nice, but it’s not the main trait you look for in a defensive mid. Acosta is technically sound and does the dirty work for his teammates.
Another reason why this signing would make sense is Toronto FC’s recent acquisitions with experienced free agents. Back in 2016 when they signed centre-back Drew Moor, Moor became an integral part of the success of the Reds’ rock-solid defense.
Shane O’Neill joined the club in winter 2022 on the back of two seasons with the Seattle Sounders and is a good defensive depth piece on the Reds. Sean Johnson and Matt Hedges were also signed in the 2022 offseason as they listened to offers from other clubs but ultimately joined the Reds. TFC’s front office aren’t afraid to swing for the fences and make big moves with inner-league signings.
New gaffer John Herdman loves a dependable, experienced, hard-working No. 6, having worked with Atiba Hutchinson and Stephen Eustáquio with the CANMNT. Acosta fits a similar profile.
Every team needs a good spine, none more so than 2024 Toronto FC. Having Acosta on the roster would be a strong step towards (yet again) re-tooling the defense and centre midfield.