Colombian-born Jesus Ferreira, the son of 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, missed out on the chance to represent the USA at the youth level while he awaited his U.S. citizenship.
But he has emerged as the likely starting center forward for the USA on its under-23 team with his second strong showing for the senior national team.
A year after his U.S. debut in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica, Ferreira scored two goals and assisted on three more in Sunday's 7-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.
Ferreira's strong performance came as no surprise to head coach Gregg Berhalter.
“Jesús made his debut last year in January for us and we thought he did an excellent job," Berhalter said on the eve of the T&T game. "He continued where he left off in this camp. He’s done a good job, so we know what Jesús brings—very good dropping down, very good linking up play, really good starting defensive pressure, and then in the penalty box he’s very calm and can finish his opportunities.”
All those qualities were on display against Soca Warriors. Less than two minutes into the game, Ferreira ran on to a pass in the T&T penalty area with only charging goalkeeper Adrian Foncette to beat. But instead of taking a rushed shot, Ferreira set the tone for the U.S. display when he smoothly laid the ball off for teammate Jonathan Lewis to slot the ball into the empty net.
Ferreira wouldn't have to worry about getting chances for himself. He scored goals in the 9th minute and 62nd minutes, to go along with his second and third assists picked up on goals by Paul Arriola in the 22nd (photo) and 41st minutes.
The night's haul -- two goals and three assists -- was more than Ferreira produced in all of 2020 for FC Dallas. The youngest player ever to sign with FC Dallas when he turned pro at the age of 15 in 2016, Ferreira was handed a new four-year contract at the end of 2019 after finishing with eight goals and six assists in 33 games.
But Ferreira struggled in 2020, finishing with one goal and one assist in 13 games. He was benched soon after FC Dallas returned to play following the MLS is Back Tournament, which it missed because of a COVID-19 outbreak that swept the team.
"Obviously, 2020 was a tough year for me, only scoring one goal in the league," he said. "I was kind of upset, but I didn't take that as a slowing down year. I took it as, 'You have to do better.'"
Berhalter kept in touch with Ferreira but couldn't bring him into the national team's December camp because FC Dallas reached the Western Conference semifinals after upsetting the Portland Timbers in a match Ferreira started. He has often started on the wing or as a midfielder tucked below the center forward but rarely started up front, where FC Dallas used Zdenek Ondrasek and then Franco Jara with Ricardo Pepi off the bench.
Berhalter prefaced his remarks about Ferreira by saying its not his place as national team coach to speak about how a club deploys one of his players, but he said he sees Ferreira as a No. 9 -- and likes him as a false No. 9.
"When you have wingers that can threaten the backline," he said after the T&T game, "you can afford to drop a striker and still get that verticality and still be able to stretch the opponent. We saw that tonight again. We're really pleased with [Ferreira's] performance. What we talked to him about today was arriving in the penalty box, and he certainly did that. To me, it was a complete performance and he deserved the Man of the Match."
Ferreira, who only turned 20 on Dec. 24, is one of the youngest players in the pool of MLS players under consideration for the U-23 team, which begins qualifying on March 18 in Guadalajara, Mexico, but with one of the biggest up sides.
"It makes me happy Gregg stuck by me," he said, "and now I can show what I can do best."
Photo: Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire