Years from now when Danilo Acosta tells the story of his MLS debut, it would be hard to believe the tale.
However, after stepping in on the final day of training to work at a position he had never played, Acosta then helped Real Salt Lake earn its first victory of the 2017 season with a shutout against a Vancouver Whitecaps FC squad that had reached the semifinals of CONCACAF Champions League. In the first half, he took a few minutes to get his feet under him, but once he gathered himself, he never looked out of place as Salt Lake cruised to halftime in a scoreless match.
Then in the second half, the cold rain of the first half turned to snow. As the stadium crew shoveled the field’s lines and the snow continued to accumulate, Acosta never lost his head, keeping his focus on helping RSL dominate the second half en route to a 3-0 win.
“Aside from the first 10 minutes maybe, five to 10 minutes, I thought he was big time for us,” said RSL Head Coach Mike Petke, who himself was making his debut on the sidelines with the Claret-and-Cobalt. “The rest of the game, he saved us on a couple occasions and you see the number of times that he opened his body up to play and cut it back in. For a young kid like that, in a game like this, to not only do that but try those things it is impressive.”
That is particularly high praise when it is considered that Acosta had played primarily as a holding midfielder or center back while on loan with Real Monarchs in his rookie season last year and this season has focused on playing the left back position in which he flourished with the U.S. U-20 National Team at the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in February and March.
Although he got the job done at right back under difficult circumstances on Saturday, Petke noted that he still has work to do to rise on the club’s depth charts.
“He has to battle still. He has a long way to go. It doesn’t mean anything moving forward,” Petke said. “He still has to prove himself week-in and week-out and he will get minutes then.”
Acosta was the eighth player to make his RSL debut this season, joining fellow homegrown talents Brooks Lennon, Ricardo Velazco and Jose Hernandez, as well as Matt VanOekel, Justin Schmidt, Chad Barrett and Albert Rusnák. None can boast the tale of their debuts that Acosta will have though.