Acuna Camacho’s long way to the top

by Alex Beilman, contributor

Photo: Hickling Images


There’s a lyric in AC/DC’s hit song “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Want To Rock ‘N’ Roll),” that claims “getting beaten, broken boned” is a quite necessary on the trip to the apex.

If Bon Scott is right about the journey, FC Buffalo defender David Acuna Camacho is on the right track.

Acuna Camacho, a Costa Rican international, began rising through the ranks of the Central American nation’s soccer system early. He came up through Deportivo Saprissa, a top club in the nation, from the age of seven until an ankle injury sidelined him at 12.

“I had kind of a fracture in my shin, it was a complicated one,” Acuna Camacho recalled. “I was already playing two age groups older than me. I got cut; I couldn’t play for six months.”

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It was a difficult blow to Acuna Camacho’s young career, but his youthful exuberance allowed him to clear this early hurdle in what looked to be a promising career.

Credit: Dan & Margaret | Hickling Images Do not use without express written permission of FC Buffalo
Credit: Dan & Margaret | Hickling Images

“As a young player, all you want to do is play soccer,” Acuna Camacho said. “I didn’t play for about six months. Then I got back into with my friends on a smaller team. The guy who had that team was with one of the head scouts of another top team, Alajuela.”

Alajuela refers to Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, a team that has the distinction of never being relegated from Costa Rica’s top division. It was the second chance the Acuna Camacho needed to reignite his career. At 14, he earned a tryout and eventually a spot on the team.

His time in the side provided a foot back in the door of the national team’s attention. His play in Alajuela earned him a call from the Costa Rican national program.

“I happened to do very well. At that time they were putting together the under-15 national team,” Acuna Camacho said. “I went there and happened to play amazing. I won a spot and stayed until the under-16s. We won a couple big tournaments.”

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He would graduate to the U17 team, serving as co-captain on that squad and starting every game. Unfortunately, they lost a match to Panama that would have sent them to the U17 World Cup.

One positive that did come from his resurgence in the Costa Rican system was Camacho garnering the attention of several top soccer school in the United States, such as University of North Carolina, Wake Forest and University of South Florida.

“I was signed to a youth contract for about three years, so I wasn’t thinking about college at that point,” Acuna Camacho said. “At that point I was with the under-18s and playing with the reserves for the national team. It was either you play or you go to school.”

After consulting with his parents, however, he realized going to the United States to receive an education and continue his soccer career in the NCAA would be a better option for his long-term future.

“My parents were always big into education,” Acuna Camacho said. “So, the Monmouth coach was really good friends with one of the really big scouts back home. They put me in contact with him, and the coach sent me a ticket to come and visit Monmouth. It was great. I loved my four years there.”

David Acuna CamachoMuch like his trajectory through the Costa Rican system, Acuna Camacho found himself to be a rising star at Monmouth. He started 18 games as a freshman, mostly on the back line. He would go on to become a very useful player for the Hawks, frequently switching between midfield and defense.

In his senior year, he started every game and provided two goals for the Hawks, both game winners. His stellar effort earned him the honor of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

“It was a little bit of an adjustment. The game was a little bit more physical,” Acuna Camacho recalled. “In my junior year I was recalled to the under-23s. My junior year and senior year I really started to pick my level up. I played center back and really reached a good level.”

DACAcuna Camacho’s play and standing with his national team earned him some attention from professional sides in the United States. He earned a spot in the New York Red Bulls combine, and came close to getting invited to the MLS combine, but was again sidelined by injury.

“In December, I got injured in the Red Bull combine. I just messed up my foot, it was really unfortunate and I had to step out.”

Unable to go to the MLS combine, his agent was able to secure a tryout with United Soccer League side Rochester Rhinos. Unfortunately, it was another tryout that ended early for Acuna Camacho.

“I got injured in the first 20 minutes of the session. It was really unlucky. So, I decided to take a step back, just trying to get back to 100 percent. I practiced with Monmouth for the whole spring, but I needed a team. My coach was friends with Nick (Mendola, FC Buffalo owner).”

After talking with Mendola and the coaching staff, Acuna Camacho decided FC Buffalo would be the perfect fit for him to try to regain his form.

“They sounded like they took good care of their players and really cared about the well-being of their players. The setup they have is really good.”

Acuna Camacho has been a positive influence for the young Blitzers, and the coaching staff has noticed. His experience and abilities have helped guide a team that struggled early in the season back towards the right track.

“He’s just class, from attitude to work rate and ability to play out. You can’t ask for much more from a player than what you get out of David every day,” said head coach Brendan Murphy.

David Acuna Camacho“He’s a mild mannered kid but he has a quiet intensity about him,” added assistant coach Bob Roach. “When he defends, he really focuses in on his job. He tackles arguably harder than anyone. He takes pride in that.”

Rather than treating his first experience in the NPSL as a pit stop or a stepping stone, Acuna Camacho has embraced the opportunity to return to form and takes the opportunity very seriously. His desire to play soccer still burns, and he is happy just to be able to be healthy and be on the pitch or at the training ground.

“His mentality and who he is is why he was at the levels he was at,” Murphy said. “It’s ingrained in him to want to work hard and be humble. He’s developed an appreciation for being out at practice. Some guys, it’s pulling teeth to get them to show up. David is excited to be here and he’s happy to be at training every day,” Murphy said.

For now, Acuna Camacho will bring his intensity and focus to the remainder of the FC Buffalo season before worrying about the next step of his professional career. He’s gained an appreciation for every opportunity he’s had, and he knows he has to earn each new opportunity in his career.

“I’ve always been faced with some adversity. Being in all those environments, it teaches you that you need to make the best of it,” Camacho said. “As long as you stay focused, as long as you know what you’re working for, always working for a goal. As long as you know what you have in yourself, you’ll be able to make it.”