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SSFC Spotlight: Edwin Cerrillo switches clubs but maintains momentum

The defensive midfielder is quietly having another strong season.

MLS: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Men’s National Team will undergo many changes over the next few years in the lead-up to the 2026 World Cup, and the roster could be unrecognizable by the 2030 edition. One constant is the presence of players from Major League Soccer, as international rosters are traditionally supported by a reliable domestic competition. One potential talent who might make the jump is Edwin Cerrillo, who recently left FC Dallas after nine years and joined the LA Galaxy. The 22-year-old defensive midfielder brings a quiet confidence to the formation and is impressing at his new club.

Born in Waco, Texas, Cerrillo played with Waco Blast and the Dallas Texans before joining the FC Dallas Academy in 2015. He scored 12 goals in 71 matches and reached the final of the 2017 Development Academy playoffs. The midfielder committed to the University of Maryland but instead signed a Homegrown Contract in February of 2019.

In his first season, Cerrillo made his debut against the LA Galaxy and played in 15 matches with the senior squad, including a substitute appearance in the playoffs. He also competed for the reserves, helping claim the 2019 USL League One Regular Season Title and Championship. His year was capped off by a training stint at Bayern Munich, a part of the clubs’ Elite Player Development Partnership.

The next season was a bit of a setback, making only two senior appearances amid the schedule shortened by COVID-19. Cerrillo somewhat returned to the fold in 2021, featuring in 22 MLS matches, including the final six fixtures. Perhaps a sign of future success, he led the team in passing accuracy and once again spent the winter training with Bayern Munich.

Cerrillo enjoyed a breakthrough last season, playing in 35 matches for FC Dallas, and the club exercised his contract option for 2023. This year, he made 22 appearances across all competitions, racking up team-leading numbers in possessions won and second in completed passes. However, there was a change in the winds as the MLS summer transfer window drew to a close.

Perhaps in light of an expiring contract, Dallas traded Cerrillo to the LA Galaxy for $600,000 in General Allocation Money and a sell-on percentage in the event of a future transfer. The transition was eased by the club’s early exit from the 2023 Leagues Cup, which allowed him to play in two intrasquad scrimmages and become more acquainted with teammates. He has hit the ground running, starting and going the full 90 minutes in victories over the Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes. His assist in the 50th minute of the latter fixture was a routine pass that led to a fantastic goal from Riqui Puig, which leveled proceedings.

“My mentality, since I got here, I wanted to contribute in any way possible, whatever the team needs, whatever [the manager] wants from me,” Cerrillo said in the post-match press conference after defeating San Jose. “I think I’m playing my role. I have good players around me, so it makes it that much easier… I feel good, I feel great, I feel comfortable… In Dallas, I was there for nine years since I joined the academy, five years on the first team. I was very comfortable. My family was close. I knew everybody there. I feel like I was there for a long time, and I wanted something new, and the opportunity came. This month has been exciting, for sure… From day one I loved it here, and I’m going to continue to enjoy it as much as I can.”

At the international level, Cerrillo is eligible to compete for the United States and Mexico. The former program called him up several times to the U-20 and U-23 groups. He was at the 2019 U-20 World Cup, staying on the bench for the entire run to the quarterfinals, and his most recent inclusion came a few months later during a pre-Olympics training camp.

Cerrillo is a defensive midfielder who plays accurate passes from all distances and maintains an active role in possession in a complementary role. He recovers the ball over seven times per match, which put him in the 72nd percentile among his positional cohort this season, and is adept at handling opposing dribblers. Dallas Sports Nation notes that his “game reading and positional sense” are areas for improvement, although his feel for the game appears to have improved over the past year. Coaches praise the tidy player’s “quiet feet” with a soft touch that enables him to work out of trouble while providing a calm presence in the defensive third and in transition.

“I want to win the ball back, for sure, and get in tackles, but I also want to be that player that can do both,” Cerrillo told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “I want to go and tackle and play calm and keep the ball for my team, let the team run. Having both sides of the ball is really important, especially for our team. We want to press really hard and be aggressive, want to force turnovers, but we also want to play soccer, play good soccer, attractive soccer for our fans. And I think my game fits that.”

At the relative start of a World Cup cycle, there exists an opportunity for a fresh crop of players to work their way into the rotation. If Cerrillo continues to earn playing time and grow into a top MLS midfielder, then he should receive a call-up and a chance to prove his usefulness at the senior international level. For now, the midfielder is another talent to monitor as the USMNT picture begins to slowly coalesce and take shape.