KELLYN ACOSTA BRIMMING WITH CONFIDENCE AHEAD OF HONDURAS WORLD CUP QUALIFIER

When Bruce Arena named his roster for the U.S. Men's National Team's upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, he underlined the squad's balance of experience and youth.

With the ability to call on the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard and DaMarcus Beasley - five of the top six World Cup Qualifying cap winners in U.S. history - Arena has experience in spades. Sitting at the other end of the roster are a number of younger players who impressed Arena and his staff in January Camp: Sebastian Lletget, Walker Zimmerman and Jorge Villafaña all earned their place in the squad, but none has had as impressive a recent stretch of play as FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta.

The 21-year-old midfielder arrived in San Jose having already scored four goals in five matches for FC Dallas this season. Three of those came in the CONCACAF Champions League, including his latest - a game-winning free kick last Wednesday in a 2-1 victory against Pachuca in the semifinal first leg.

"I'm feeling very confident," the central midfielder told ussoccer.com. "I scored some goals and our team is doing very well. Coming in here being confident helps my level of play."

Acosta has risen through the U.S. Youth National Team ranks, playing in three different youth World Cups - the 2011 U-17 edition as well as the 2013 and 2015 U-20 FIFA World Cups. After earning his senior debut last year, he achieved another milestone by appearing in his first World Cup Qualifier - a 6-0 win on Sept. 2, 2016, at St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

At the club level, Acosta served as a key cog for FC Dallas in 2016 when they captured both the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as the M.L.S. Supporters Shield. After tasting so much success last season, Acosta said his early league form comes as a result of taking very little time away from the field in the offseason.

"I knew I couldn't be content with last year. I had a lot of positives, but I knew I could achieve more."

Though he hit a small bump in the road when he left January Camp early due to a minor injury, he's adamant that the recent work he's put in has paid off.

"That extra time really helped me, and being in January Camp, despite leaving early, that really helped me get an early leap on preseason. Then going to Argentina for preseason with FC Dallas and playing in the Champions League, I was a couple more steps ahead of everyone. I think that really helped me. Putting in that extra work really upped my level for the beginning of the year."

In praising Acosta's play when naming his roster last week, Arena said the midfielder was among a core group of younger players that had the potential to contribute to the National Team program for years to come.

With zero points from the USA's first two games of the Final Round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Acosta recognizes the stakes for the MNT and hopes his early-season resume will earn him minutes on the field in Friday's crucial match against Honduras.

"I'm just doing whatever I can to try and help the team accomplish our goal, which is to qualify for the World Cup. I think my play with FC Dallas has helped me get some eyes from Bruce. Hopefully I can continue on that path and get some minutes in the upcoming qualifiers."