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SSFC Spotlight: Jesús Ferreira resets with national team after down season

A crucial year is coming for the attacker.

SOCCER: JUN 22 MLS - Toronto FC at FC Dallas Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While Gregg Berhalter is exploring the status of several dual national players, Jesús Ferreira has already made his commitment to the United States over Colombia. After gaining his citizenship, he’s earned two caps and recently impressed with a brace against Trinidad and Tobago. The upcoming year at the club and international level will be crucial for his chances at receiving a spot on the 2022 World Cup roster, for which the 20-year-old appears to have an inside track.

The son of 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, Jesús was born in Santa Marta, Colombia. The former Colombian international joined FC Dallas in 2009, at which point his then-nine-year-old son entered the club’s vaunted youth academy. He was a member of the teams that claimed the 2015-2016 Development Academy Championship and the 2017 Dallas Cup Super Group, scoring 48 goals in 50 starts. His trio of finishes led the U-18 team to the Tri-Series Tournament in Qatar with wins over Aspire Academy and Leicester City.

At only 15 years old, Ferreira signed his first professional contract in November 17th, 2016. His debut appearance in June of 2017 was a special one, as he contributed the final goal in a 6-2 romp over Real Salt Lake, the second-youngest scorer in league history. That was his only match of the year, but his development was shown to be on the right path.

His 2018 season got off to a slow start after undergoing “a procedure to repair a sports hernia injury.” In order to receive regular playing time, Ferreira was sent on loan to USL side FC Tulsa. His spell in Oklahoma was productive, with six goals in 14 matches, but also helped ease the transition between the academy and professional levels. “Tulsa was a great experience for me,” he told Big D Soccer. “It helped me build confidence knowing that when I got to the big stage, everyone is going to be bigger and faster than you, so you have to play smarter.”

The loan paid dividends, as Ferreira became one of MLS’ biggest young stars in 2019. Playing a variety of attacking positions, he registered eight goals and five assists in 36 matches across all competitions. At 18 and already three years into his professional career, his status as a future star appeared set, with regular production and an eventual transfer guaranteed.

Prior to the 2020 season, FC Dallas signed the attacker to a four-year contract with a significant raise. Last year saw a significant statistical drop off, as Ferreira registered a single goal and assist in 21 appearances. He was ”benched at various points of the year” and “easily the least productive of the club’s usual attackers,” a sharp decline after a fast rise. Frustrated with a lack of conversion in MLS, a January call-up provided the chance to regain confidence and reestablish the scoring touch.

“Obviously, 2020 was a tough year for me only scoring one goal in the league,” he shared. “Obviously, kind of upset but I didn’t take that as a slowing down year. I took it as you have to do better. We have to make sure that 2021 is a way better year than the past two years… Gregg [and I] had a lot of conversations to what was going on. I mean, it makes me happy that he stuck by me.”

Despite not being eligible to appear in international matches, Ferreira previously trained with the U.S. U-17 and U-23 squads. Upon receiving his citizenship, he made his first appearance in a February 2020 USMNT friendly against Costa Rica. His true arrival with the national team came in the recent 7-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.

In a standout performance, Ferreira scored two goals and notched a trio of assists. He was named Man of the Match by U.S. Soccer and excelled against an outmatched Soca Warriors side, constantly working to pressure the back line and linking up with his teammates. Even without the brace, his natural feel for the game and control over the attack drew praise.

Berhalter provided a glimpse of what role the 20-year-old attacker will play for the national team. “We had a really good feel for him… and an idea of what he can do in our system,” he said in January. “We’ve always seen the talent as a number nine who can link up the team by dropping… He created a number of chances because of him dropping in the midfield. When you have wingers that can threaten the backline, you can afford to drop a striker because you still get that verticality to stretch the opponent.”

Where Ferreira – sometimes a striker, sometimes an attacking midfielder, and occasionally a winger – fits in the formation is also a question at FC Dallas. He is not a prototypical front-line player, with 3rd Degree Net describing him as an off-ball striker, “making cutting runs into the defensive gaps, making runs under another player, and picking up loose balls.” Labeled as a “poacher, chaos maker, and scorer” as opposed to a playmaker or out-and-out forward, his inclusion in Berhalter’s squad would not be an issue considering the depth of diagonally-minded talent at the winger position.

Tor-Kristian Karlsen further broke down Ferreira’s strengths and weaknesses for ESPN. While standing a mere 5’8” and “hard to pigeonhole” tactically, he can hold his own in the box against physical defenders and “operate in front of the opponent’s defensive line.” The pacey, technical attacker has a tendency to be wasteful in possession and “lose his man on set pieces,” but has “undoubted star potential.” Recently named to the Olympic Qualifying training camp roster, the upcoming tournament would provide another opportunity to demonstrate his quality and potential value.

The men’s national team is entering an exciting period, with talented players developing at their clubs and pushing for playing time. Ferreira is an intriguing option, one who has caught the eye of Berhalter and proven his readiness for the international level. While his form with FC Dallas must improve, this summer will determine whether his status is future prospect or unexpected inclusion for the 2022 World Cup. The question is, on which roster will he be featured: the potential 2020 Olympic, the Nations League, or the Gold Cup?