His place in West Hollywood still has plenty of boxes in it and he’s not been able to fully immerse himself in his new environment, or his new digs. But Kellyn Acosta, to borrow from the city’s unofficial anthem, loves LA.
The midfielder was traded from the Colorado Rapids to LAFC in mid-January, before the start of preseason. And then Acosta was part of the U.S. Men’s National Team camp and suddenly the first game in a new uniform — which coincidentally was against his former team — was upon him.
The chance to breathe, to take in his new city, hasn’t been there for a resident of a little more than a month. But Acosta loves the first impression LA has made on him.
“It's definitely been good. I mean, first and foremost, the weather has definitely been way nicer than what I'm used to. So that's definitely been great,” Acosta told OSDBsports.com. “The team has been very welcoming. LA is a great city with pretty much everything I want — I’m into fashion, the footballing aspect is huge. The team has been great, an organization that provides everything to ensure the players succeed. So being part of this has been kind of a breath of fresh air for me.”
Acosta said the feeling right off the plane from Minnesota — where he was with the USMNT for a sub-zero World Cup qualifier against Honduras — was his Welcome to LA moment — the temperature, the swaying palm trees. There’s a vibe just walking down the street in bustling West Hollywood and there’s already been a few celebrity run-ins.
Acosta saw Amber Rose outside of Catch, and when he went to dine at Norah, Kehlani was with her daughter. And then there’s match night at Banc of California Stadium, where Owen Wilson took selfies and exchanged fist bumps with LAFC’s supporters’ section — the 3252 — at a recent match.
“At games, just seeing different celebrities and influencers that really want to come to LAFC games, it's kind of crazy really,” Acosta said. “It’s sort of like a Lakers game. The hottest of the hottest come to watch us play. So it's becoming an attraction in LA, which is kind of cool to be a part of.”
That first official with LAFC? Yeah, a little strange. The club’s 2022 season opener at the Banc was against the Colorado Rapids, the club he marshaled the midfield for over the course of the last four seasons.
The 3-0 win, and hearing the roar of the crowd at the Banc, was music to Acosta’s ears.
“When you move teams, you usually don't play your team the first game, especially after being traded the month prior. So yeah, it was a bit weird kind of being on the other side, but it was good,” Acosta said. “The biggest thing was just playing at the Banc in front of the fans. Being on the other side of it was always a bit intimidating because the fans are rowdy, they're passionate, they're loud. But having that kind of support behind myself this go round and the team was amazing.”
Acosta, who began his professional career with his hometown club, FC Dallas, in 2012, also is enjoying a new manager, to go along with all the off-the-field accoutrements LA has to offer.
Steve Cherundolo has taken the helm after a year with LAFC USL-affiliate Las Vegas Lights. Cherundolo played in three World Cups with the U.S. men’s national team and spent his entire career playing for Hannover 96 in the German Bundesliga — he’s done everything Acosta wants to do.
“For him to have that experience and have that information, it’s definitely huge. It's something that I aspire to do, which is playing in Europe and playing in a World Cup,” Acosa said. “Having a guy that knows the ins and outs and has those experiences is definitely very valuable for a player like me and for the team.”
On the other side of the highway from Banc of California Stadium is Futbol Academy of SoCal, a bustling academy in East LA. It’s where Acosta, without any publicity or fanfare, came down to talk to the players and take in a training session.
It’s something Acosta, who has also worked with the Global Down Syndrome foundation and Special Olympics, done previously in Dallas and Colorado.
“When I was growing up. I didn't have someone to look up to that was right in front of me, that was reachable and approachable,” Acosta said. “So I'm trying to do my best to be approachable, to be that voice to help better the youth.”
Acosta said he was the one inspired, from the 50-75 parents and family who lined the sidelines — and stayed — for the entire session rather than drop their kids off and return a few hours later. And then there was the skill the young players showed.
“It was something that I hadn't really seen before,” he said. “What they're brewing over there, it's something huge and I'm looking forward to doing some more things in the future with them.”
One of Acosta’s idols growing up in Plano, Texas was Eddie Johnson, who starred for the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) when he was just 17 years old. He went on to play for Kansas City, Seattle and D.C. United in Major League Soccer, as well as a three-year stint with Fulham in England, which included loan stints with Cardiff City, Aris and Preston North. He also scored 19 goals in 63 appearances for the USMNT.
Acosta said he looked up to Johnson because he was a young, confident Black player. Someone, he said, who looked like him. Acosta recently had the chance for a deep conversation with Johnson, now 37 and training young players in Florida, as part of Black History Month on the Que Golazo podcast.
“I think it would have done me wonders if I had the opportunity to have a real conversation with him at that age, hearing his different struggles, what paved him, any words of advice that he has for me deeper than ‘buckle down and work hard,’” Acosta said.
Now it’s Acosta providing the inspirational words and actions to young players like him, like some in Futbol Academy of SoCal.
“I'm hoping to continue that, to not obviously impress and succeed on the pitch,” Acosta said. “But also be influential off of it.”