This story originally was posted on on Feb. 6, 2010

By Michael Lewis

The riches or wealth a man may accrue necessarily doesn’t have to be measured in gold, greenbacks or hefty bank accounts. Sometimes they can be in found in many other ways.

Jorge Acosta considers himself a wealthy man.

“I’m not rich, but I’m rich in love,” he said. “I have two kids. I have been married to the same woman for 21 years.

“Every day I feel like I’m going up.”


On Saturday, Acosta will be going up – up to the podium at Long Island University as an inductee into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

He enjoyed quite a career with the Blackbirds, regularly either filling the net or setting up teammates with scoring opportunities.

As good as and entertaining Acosta was, you have to wonder what impact he could have made if he had received a break or two.

Acosta admitted that he wonders how much money he would have made.

Perhaps he was born too soon.

“If I knew then what I knew now, I’d be a millionaire,” Acosta said in a telephone interview Friday.

Capped 12 times by the U.S. men’s national team, Acosta became of the great amateur and semi-professional players in the metropolitan area just before Major League Soccer came into being. He also played for Deportivo Cali in his native Colombia for four years, the Albany Capitals (ASL) and with the Dallas Sidekicks (Major Indoor Soccer League).

He starred for Hermes and then Greek-American Atlas in the Hellenic-American Soccer League before he was drafted by the MetroStars of the then fledgling Major League Soccer in 1996.

Even after 14 years, Acosta still has a bitter taste in his mouth over his MetroStars experience.

“It was like the end of my career,” he said. “It was very, very disappointing.”

At first they wanted Acosta to try out, which “was an insult to me.”

They tried to convert him into a defender, despite his creative abilities. During training camp, Eddie Firmani, the MetroStars’ first coach, played Acosta at right fullback for two pre-season games.

“I was running like a chicken without a head,” Acosta said. “I never played defense in my life.”

During media day, he was introduced as part of the team, wearing a MetroStars kit along with the likes of Giovanni Savarese, another LIU graduate, by the way, and former U.S. international goalkeeper Tony Meola and midfielder Peter Vermes.

But three days prior to the club’s franchise opener, he was called into the office. Acosta said he was told he “was making too much money.”

At the time, his salary was $37,000.

“They wanted to cut my pay in half,” he said. “They said they could pay two players with my money.”

He was cut from the team.

“When people ask me about the MetroStars, I don’t have good memories about it,” he said.

Acosta joined the New York Fever in the U.S. International Soccer League and preceded to tear up the league, striking nine times in five games.

Firmani left the MetroStars — he quit or was fired, depending on whose story you believed — and former and future Portuguese national coach Carlos Queiroz took over the coaching reins. Queiroz heard about Acosta and asked him to tryout.

He liked what he saw and wanted to sign Acosta. Realizing they had a gem, the Fever wanted a $40,000 transfer fee. The MetroStars didn’t want to pay.

So much for his MetroStars comeback.

“At the end of the day, I was very happy I didn’t play for them,” he said. ‘I always believed they had a curse. I think it will be a long time before they do well.

“When people ask me about the MetroStars, I don’t have good memories about it.”

Acosta said that Firmani is “always in my mind, but not for good reasons, though.”

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to marvel at Acosta’s brilliance during his college heydays because I was living in upstate New York at the time.

However, yours truly did have the opportunity to witness a few marvelous moments watching Acosta and company, although it was after he LIU days when I was editor and publisher of Soccer Week from 1987 to 1994.

One instance was with the New Jersey Eagles, who toiled in the old American Soccer League in April, 1988.

He thought his soccer career was dead in the water when he was declared ineligible for his senior year at LIU. In the Eagles’ 4-1 home-home opening win over the Baltimore Bays, he struck for a hat-trick and set up the fourth.

That Eagles team was a special one. Coached by Ed Kelly, who went on to guide another Eagles side at Boston College, the Eagles were oozing in talent from the metropolitan area. U.S. internationals Tab Ramos and Peter Vermes played when they weren’t suiting up for the red, white and blue. Kazbek Tambi, who is now a U.S. international youth coach and Seton Hall women’s coach, was on that time, including defender Dave Masur, who coaches the NCAA Division I power St. John’s.

“It was an incredible team,” said Acosta, who connected for 18 goals in 16 games for the 1988 Eagles.

And the piece de resistance came in a New York City competition called the Mayor’s Cup in 1994 or 1995. Acosta was playing with Greek-American Atlas. His team was awarded a free kick some 35 yards on the left side. Acosta ran up to the ball and bent his attempt around the outside of the wall and into the net.

A magnificent goal.

What technique. What brilliance.

Afterwards – after then NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani had awarded G-A Atlas the trophy — I asked Acosta what was his strategy on the free kick.

“I just tried to kick it as hard as I could,” he said.

During a Friday interview, Acosta remembered the goal and interview.

“That’s still me now,” he said. “My talent. Close my eyes and hit the ball as hard as I can.”

Despite his disappointments, Acosta’s spirit could not be broken.

He still plays and coaches the beautiful game. Acosta plays for Passaic Peru in an Over-45 league in Paterson, N.J. and is director of Mickey Kydes Soccer Enterprises in Greenwich, Conn.

“It’s fun,” said Acosta, who said he “still scores a couple of goals here and there.”

And then there’s the next generation of Acosta soccer.

Both his children, Jorge, II (16) and Diana (18) have played soccer near the family’s residence in Hawthorne, N.J. Jorge II is a sophomore at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., the same high school that gave the world Claudio Reyna, Gregg Berhalter and Tab Ramos.

Acosta says his son, a midfielder, plays a different style from his father.

“He plays almost like Mickey,” he said, referring to LIU Hall of Famer Mickey Kydes. “He’s the brain of the midfield.”

And even though he might not be a millionaire, Acosta knows that his work still can be priceless.

On Sunday he leaves for his hometown Barranquilla, Colombia as he will hand out used and new soccer equipment to disadvantaged youth as part of the Jorge Acosta Foundation in his native country.

When his father was dying of cancer six years ago, Acosta decided to form a charity. Every year he journeys back home to give back.

He plans to hand out 300 soccer balls, 250 shoes and shirts.

“I take anything people give me,” he said. “I feel I am giving something back to my old country.”

On Saturday, LIU gives back to Acosta – one more time.