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Kellyn Acosta showing maturity and poise in first U.S. senior team camp

CARSON, Calif. -- Kellyn Acosta was in the middle of a very important day last December when his phone rang and FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja's name flashed on the screen. In the process of closing on the purchase of a new home, Acosta let the call go to voicemail. Not used to hearing from the coach during the winter months, the midfielder started to wonder just what the call was about.

Did Pareja just want to chat? Might it be some bad news? He even thought briefly about the possibility of being traded, as unlikely as that might be for one of FC Dallas' most promising young players.

Pareja wasn't calling Acosta to let him know he had been traded, but rather to let him know he had just been called into his first U.S. national team camp. Less than an hour after speaking to Pareja, he was on the phone with Jurgen Klinsmann and a day that had already started out as a pretty important one soon turned into one he would never forget.

"It wasn't a call I was expecting when it came, but I was definitely happy to get it," Acosta told Goal USA as he recalled the fateful day. "It was a pretty special day."

Acosta is no stranger to the U.S. national team setup, having been a part of various youth national teams and two U.S. Under-20 World Cup squads, including last summer's impressive group that reached the World Cup quarterfinals.

Despite that role, Acosta's January camp call-up was still seen as a bit of a surprise, if only because he hadn't factored in the U.S. Under-23 national team's Olympic qualifying tournament in October. Acosta responded to that omission by finishing off a strong season for FC Dallas, and playing well enough to earn a call as one of the Under-23 eligible players brought into the current U.S. senior team camp.

Acosta has made the most of the opportunity, impressing both coaches and teammates alike with his versatility, maturity and confidence, all despite being the youngest player in camp at age 20.

"I hadn't had a chance to see him too much before this camp but my impression of him has been incredible," U.S. goalkeeper Luis Robles told Goal USA. "This is a player that not only has a huge future, but U.S. Soccer should be excited about his development.

"There's a certain fearlessness to the way he plays and that's very healthy," Robles added. "Being able to play with him the past three weeks gives me a whole new appreciation for his game."

Acosta's form in the January camp earned him his first U.S. national team cap in last Sunday's 3-2 friendly win against Iceland. After a bit of a shaky start, Acosta eventually settled into his left back role and played well, particularly in the second half when he connected passes well and played with confidence.

“(Acosta) really played like he belonged in this team. It was really, really fun to watch," Klinsmann said after Sunday's match.

"I think I was a little timid at first. I think I was too afraid to make a mistake," he said of his national team debut. "I think that was kind of my downfall, but as the second half got going I was more committed to getting forward and helping my team any way possible."

Acosta may have played well enough to earn another start on Friday, when the U.S. faces Canada. Klinsmann sent veteran defenders Brad Evans and Michael Orozco home after the Iceland match, increases the chances Acosta has a role to play, and a second cap to earn.

Having already made a good first impression, Acosta is intent on earning more caps, and solidifying a place on the U.S. Under-23 team for its Olympic qualifying playoff series against Colombia in March.

"It wasn't fun being left off the Olympic qualifying squad, so I'm going to do everything I can to make Andi (Herzog) see me as someone he wants to have on that team," Acosta he said. "Having this chance to be in a full senior camp has been a dream come true, but I also know I need to keep working to make the most of this chance."