IMAGE: Lucho clap

2018 Review: Acosta logs best season yet

2018 was an unforgettable year for midfield maestro Luciano Acosta, whose explosive run in the second half the season helped the Black-and-Red complete one of the most impressive late-season comebacks in club history, and allowed them to punch a ticket to the postseason to cap off Audi Field's inaugural season. Acosta was at the heart of United's return to relevance, and could make a run for MLS MVP next season should he continue to perform at the same caliber he found this season. 

The Argentine tallied 10 goals and 17 assists, finishing just shy of MLS' assist-leader spot for the year, and becoming only the fifth player in United's history to record 10+ goals and assists in a single regular season. Acosta doubled his goalscoring rate from 2017, and his 17 assists bested his previous season high of 11 from 2016. Creative and dangerously quick on the ball, Acosta became more and more comfortable finishing plays himself in front of goal as the season progressed, consistently beating those in front of him and continuing his dribbles straight at defenders who were often faced with a difficult choice: cut off Acosta's shot or final pass. 

With his ability to score himself or dish a perfect final ball to his teammates, that choice was frequently a lose-lose decision for opponents, and a major edge for the Black-and-Red. Acosta was responsible for the game-winning goals against Orlando in August and Atlanta in September, and the game-winning assists against Columbus in April, Colorado in July, and Minnesota in September. His buzzer-beater header against Orlando also earned him an MLS Goal of the Year nomination. 

While Acosta has always been one of United's primary threats, the addition of Wayne Rooney aided in his reinvigoration. The midfielder and forward developed some of the best on-field chemistry in the league and were able to put United's attack on their shoulders down the stretch of the regular season. Rooney challenged Acosta to score more often, and Acosta frequently set up Rooney in front of goal, taking United's already-promising attack and, at times, making it appear unstoppable. 

Acosta racked up plenty of accolades throughout the year, including MLS Team of the Week honors, MLS Goal of the Week honors, MLS Player of the Week honors, and MLS Player of the Month honors, but none was bigger than his inclusion in Major League Soccer's Best XI for 2018. The Best XI nod reflected just how impressive Acosta's 2018 run was, and how critical the midfielder was to United's turnaround. United earned a 9-2-5 record during matches where Acosta recorded a goal or an assist, and his increased defensive maturity allowed him to contribute more on the defensive side of the ball as well. 

There is no doubt that Acosta will be one of the primary factors determining whether United can build off of the 2018 season, challenge for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference, and make a deeper playoff run in 2019. After such an exciting and dominant 2018, Black-and-Red fans now eagerly await to see what Acosta has in store for his next act.