There are few worse positions to be in as a professional soccer player than going long stretches of a season without seeing any time on the field. Whether it be due to injury, poor form, or falling out of favor with the coaches, no player can ever stand watching their teammates find success or struggle to pull off results without being able to contribute their fair share on the pitch.
Players rising through the ranks of a club’s academy system are heavily prone to falling into this situation. Signing their first professional contract never guarantees immediate integration into the senior side, but it does provide an allusion as to what is to come should they continue to give the club reason to keep faith in their talent. For Jesus Ferreira, surviving this very situation is what has propelled him to the top of FC Dallas’ offensive pecking order in 2019.
Prior to this season, Ferreira made a single appearance in each of the 2017 and 2018 MLS seasons for Dallas and played a combined 22 minutes between them. It was not the dream transition the Colombian-born forward would have envisioned when he signed his homegrown contract in 2016, but he accredits his father, former MLS MVP and FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira, for providing him with the support system he needed to persevere through this stagnant period of his young career.
“In two years, I played maybe three games,” Ferreira said. “Him being there to support me and say ‘Yeah, you’re going to be fine. You’ll get your opportunity and your chances, just keep your head up.’ I think that just helped me a lot because I wasn’t playing a lot, so that helped me to grow too.”
His patience would pay some dividends toward the latter half of 2018 as Ferreira flourished with USL outfit Tulsa Roughnecks, scoring six goals and contributing two assists between August and September. With Tulsa, Ferreira put together a healthy string of consistent minutes albeit in the lower divisions of U.S. soccer.
“Tulsa was a great experience for me” the forward ensured when asked about the value of his loan spell there. “It helped me build confidence knowing that when I got to the big stage, everyone is going to be bigger than you and faster than you, so you have to play smarter.” Even his teammates in Dallas, Ferreira added, were inconsistent contact with him throughout his loan to encourage his good form and to remind him to be patient for his opportunities with FC Dallas.
Heading into his third season as a professional and with more minutes under his belt, Ferreira seemed destined to make an impact in the first team come to the start of 2019. Luchi Gonzalez becoming head coach of FC Dallas also boded well for Ferreira and the rest of the youngsters floating on the outskirts of the first-team action. Despite not having the opportunity to play a full season under an Oscar Pareja coached Dallas team, Ferreira treasures and often looks back upon the lessons learned from his former coach.
“He always believed in me” Ferreira stated with a rather intense tone in his voice. “He was one of the first people to believe in me and get me to where I’m at right now. If it wasn’t for all those years with Oscar, I don’t think I would have made it here.” Some players tend to fall out of favor with managers when the amount of game time they desire is not being provided, but the relationship between Ferreira and Pareja never faltered as the young forward maintains a strong respect for his former coach’s efforts to make him better both on and off the field.
Now one of the mainstays in Gonzalez’s new-look Dallas team, Pareja would be proud of the young star Ferreira has quickly become in MLS. The majority of the 18-year-old’s team-leading four goals have been scored against high profile teams as well, with MLS Cup finalists Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers both falling victim to his goal scoring touch. The New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake make up the other two teams Ferreira has crossed off his hit list.
Back to back matches against LAFC have provided the forward with two daunting tests to try and create goalscoring opportunities on his own. The Black and Gold applied their usual high-octane pressure to break down a depleted Dallas side, leaving Ferreira stranded to run onto the end of hopeful long balls and desperate clearances. He did, however, find more success in getting on the ball in dangerous areas once brought in centrally from the right wing.
“I’m a different kind of nine,” he said describing his playing style. “I’m not big and strong to hold up the ball but more like a false nine. I get the ball in tight spaces trying to connect passes outside and making myself available inside the box.” Seeing as all four of his goals have come from inside the box, this “different kind of nine” is finding a different kind of success at the helm of Gonzalez’s offensive trident.
Though this is Ferreira’s first season a consistent figure in the starting lineup, his three years of training with the first team make him one of the senior academy graduates look towards when moving up the ranks. It is an interesting situation for the teenager as he is familiar with many of the fresh faces coming into the squad having either player alongside them or watched them play with the academy teams at some point. When asked about the general reception of young players in the locker room, Ferreira explained that everyone is treated as a professional by the time they step into the first team.
“We don’t consider ourselves young players because we have to do our jobs; the same jobs the older guys do” Ferreira put simply. “I don’t think it’s ever been ‘okay, yeah, you’re younger,’ we just do our job when they tell us to do it.”
A rather hard-working, humble attitude to maintain as young professional but one that brought Ferreira this far in his career, nonetheless. As he has learned over the last three years, patience and persistence are key to reaching achieving whatever goals one has set before themselves. He has become a prime example of what FC Dallas hopes to produce in all their academy graduates since signing with the team three years ago, and 2019 is the year he hopes will be the year he shows just what that type of player is capable of producing at the top level.