Jesus Ferreira focuses on the present -- and it pays off

The start of the World Cup is still more than five months away, but realistically the USA's roster will be set at the end of September after its two friendly matches against non-European opponents in Europe.

That's still a lot of time for things to happen, but already you see on the faces of some players anxious looks as they wonder whether their chances of going to the World Cup might be hanging in the balance.

When the U.S. squad was announced for the current set of four games, Coach Gregg Berhalter cautioned that if a player wasn't on the roster in June it didn't mean he wouldn't be on the World Cup roster in November. But ahead of Friday's match against Grenada, the first of two matches against Concacaf opposition in the Nations League, he admitted that he is "running out of game time" to evaluate players.

Maybe 6-7 players whom Berhalter used in the 5-0 win over Grenada have their tickets to Qatar. Most of the rest are in battles to claim backup spots or face long odds unless FIFA expands rosters from 23 to 26 players.

No player has felt the pressure more than 21-year-old Jesus Ferreira. He could start the opening World Cup game against Wales on Nov. 21 or he could be back home in Dallas watching the tournament on television.

He was the sixth different player after Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok, Daryl Dike, Gyasi Zardes and Ricardo Pepi Berhalter used at center forward in World Cup qualifying, and he took his opportunity when he was rotated into the starting lineup in January.

Ferreira assisted on Antonee Robinson's winning goal in the 1-0 win over El Salvador and added a goal and an assist in the key result of qualifying — the 5-1 win over Panama that allowed the USA to travel to Costa Rica assured of qualifying unless it lost to the Ticos by six or more goals.

Ferreira, who is tied for the MLS scoring lead with nine goals for FC Dallas, gives the USA a look as a "false 9" none of the other center forwards have, making him particularly valuable for his combination work, given the USA's lack of a traditional playmaker. He also is "a pressing animal" — Berhalter's words — prized for his ability to lead the frontline in putting pressure on defenses, an important part in the youthful USA's game.

All that should put the Colombian-born son of David Ferreira, the 2010 MLS MVP with FC Dallas, in good shape to be on the plane to Doha, but his performances in the first two matches in June were a mixed bag.

That pressing work paid off in the USA's 3-0 win over Morocco and parts of the first half in the 0-0 tie with Uruguay. Problem was, Ferreira missed his own chances, one late in the first half against Morocco that would have put the match away and two of the USA's best chances against Uruguay.

Ahead of Friday's match against Grenada, Ferreira tried to point out the other things he brings to the team.

“The main focus as a 9 is to score goals," he said, "but a lot of people have to see that the 9 can also assist, and can build out and can help out the build [up]. So I think for my job is to facilitate other players to be able to score and to help the other players be in a position to score goals also. As the connection and chemistry is getting there, every practice we get better and better.”

Still, everything comes back to finishing. With newcomer Haji Wright waiting in the wings — he will start on Tuesday against El Salvador — the pressure was on Ferreira to score against Grenada.

He missed several more chances before scoring late in the first half. That would have seemed to ease Ferreira's nerves. But the low point came early in the second half when he missed a header, failing to even put his shot on goal after being set up by Luca de la Torre. A Grenada player was injured on the play, and during the break Ferreira looked distraught, shaking his head over and over again. Robinson came over and had a word with his young teammate.

Soon, the floodgates opened — Ferreira scored in the 54th and 56th minutes to complete his hat trick. In the 78th minute, he scored a fourth goal to tie a men's national team record for goals in a game. Paul Arriola, Ferreira's FC Dallas teammate, scored the fifth goal, though he said his goal pretty much "was his goal," referring to Ferreira and his run that cleared out the middle of the Grenada backline, allowing de la Torre to thread a pass to the breaking Arriola.

Still, Ferreira was mercilessly attacked on social media for his poor finishing in the first half. His four goals hardly counted among many commentators because of the opponent, the No. 170-ranked Spice Boyz. Wrote one fan on Twitter, "Archie Stark [the first of the other four Americans to score four goals in a game] could probably still score two against Grenada and he's dead ..." Berhalter doesn't look at it the same way.

"I think that anytime a player is under pressure, you look for how they respond," Berhalter said. "That's the important thing, and no matter what the level of the opponent is, the player still has to perform."

The U.S. coach said he had talked with Ferreira before the game on Friday to try to ease the pressure.

“He does a lot of other stuff that really helps this group be successful,” Berhalter said. “And so I just said, ‘Go out there and relax and play your game.’ He had four goals and it’s great for him. I’m happy for him. Those goals matter and the finishes that he had were excellent. Against any opponent, you look for the quality of the strikes and where he’s putting the ball — the placement.”

Ferreira, who admitted he should have put away his header, said he has been feeling the mental strain.

"I’ve been trying to work on my mind," he said, "knowing that I haven’t been performing at the level that I’m supposed to, but I have a group of people around me that support me and let me know what I bring to the team. I’m trying to focus more on having a good game, making sure that my first touch is good, helping my teammates in any way I can, and the goals will come. Today it showed. I focused more on the touches and the runs than just scoring goals and we saw the result there.”

And how does he view his chances of going to the World Cup?

"I don’t want to think that much ahead," Ferreira said, "as there’s a lot of good players on this team that can play that position. What I want to do is stay focused and keep working hard so I can earn minutes for the team. I don’t want to focus on the World Cup right now, just want to stay in the present.”

11 comments about "Jesus Ferreira focuses on the present -- and it pays off".
  1. Donald Lee, June 12, 2022 at 9:06 a.m.

    The American soccer fanbase is becoming absolutely toxic.  A bunch of entitled babies attacking every player that is not perfect, and every coach that fails to win every game. Filling social media with bullcrap "takes" meant only to demonstrate how smart they are.  Thinking that they have a role to play in putting pressure on our athletes -- which is really about filling themselves with a sense of importance.

  2. Bruce Spiegelman replied, June 12, 2022 at 9:24 a.m.

    Every fan base in every soccer country does this. You think Italys fans are more rational??!!

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, June 13, 2022 at 12:48 a.m.

    Donald; glad you acknowledge we're Smart ... I'm not putting Pressure on the Players, I'm putting Pressure on the Coach and the Federation...
    Because, in the End, the Federation is the Boss, and Responsible for getting the BEST Coach... Not the Convenient one.

  4. frank schoon replied, June 14, 2022 at 11:56 a.m.

    Donald have you tried bowling, maybe that's more in line for you..
    Complaining about  soccer posts opinions by others certainly tells me you don't have much to go on.  You might learn something about the game, seeing you never have anything interesting to say.....

  5. james Fitzsimons, June 12, 2022 at 10:29 a.m.

    and considering the easy shots he missed, should have had about 8..still havent given Haji a real opportunity

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, June 14, 2022 at 4:08 a.m.

    Yup it's WIDE Open at the #9... I wonder if they Taking Bets in Vegas.????

  7. Santiago 1314, June 12, 2022 at 11:23 a.m.

    "He does a lot of other stuff that really helps this group be successful,” Berhalter said"

    Famous Last Words before a #9 is On The Bench....
    I think we heard the same thing about Sargent,
    I think we heard the same thing about Pepi,
    (Kinda like: The President has FULL Confidence in Sec. of xxx)

    Jesus deserves to be on the Squad, but Not for his Goal Scoring(Which will be ZERO at WC22)... 
    Unless we "Magically" have a #9 drop into our Laps...We will be HAVING To play with a False9... Getting In Between the Zones and Drawing CBs Out of Position for Slip Passes to CP and Weah... Jesus is a better than Pepi, Sargent, Haji, Dike, Pefok, etc, at that Role...
    I think that Reyna would be more Dangerous than Jesus at that Job, the only thing that Jesus appears better at than Reyna is GegenPressing... He is more like Sargent in that Regard ...  Reyna seems to Play as if Pressing is Below him.
    That would allow for Less Team Shape Changing during the Tournament... Aaronson can also play in there... I like to think of these Players as an 8.5...
    Reyna the more Offensive Version, Jesus as the more Dual Version, Aaronson as the More Defensive Version...
    This Means you Only need to bring ONE true #9, for those Last 20 minutes when you need a "Gate Chrasher" because you Need a Goal...I Predict DIKE will be that Player

  8. Kevin Leahy, June 12, 2022 at 12:33 p.m.

    Santiago, you make a good point about Reyna. His health is a genuine concern. The opponent really was't offering much. Can't remember the last international match I saw with so much room provided by an opponent. If it helps his confidence, good for him. This team is going to need individual brilliance for a breakthrough 

  9. James Madison, June 12, 2022 at 3:49 p.m.

    Is the glass half empty or half full? I like to think it's the latter in the case of Ferreira.  I'd say he is the leader at the moment. We will see more of Wright n Tuesday.  Sargent is history.  Pefok and Dike are bulls, no studs. Pepi still has a shot.  

  10. Kent James, June 13, 2022 at 1:41 a.m.

    I generally agree with this analysis; Ferreira does provide a different look than the other CFs.  He did a nice job eventually coming through after feeling some serious pressure, so kudos to him and a good learning experience.  He is talented and young.  I think he should go to the WC, but he certainly hasn't locked up the starting role (but he has as good a shot at it as anyone else).

    I really liked his runs towards the corner kicker who passes to him on corner kicks from the right cornter; first time he curled a dangerous ball to the far past, the second time it was a goal to the near post (with both strikes coming from the same look, so the keeper can't anticipate.  It's also a technically simple play (though easy to defend if the opponents anticipate it).  But certainly one to pull out every now and again.  Well done.

  11. R2 Dad, June 14, 2022 at 4:31 p.m.

    Come Qatar, we will still be wondering if we will get first half JF or second half JF.

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