By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 14, 2022) US Soccer Players – With a pair of goals four minutes apart against LAFC on Saturday, FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira etched his name in the Texas club’s history books. Ferreira’s total of 18 goals for the season equals the record for the team known by two names in its 27-year history: the Dallas Burn and FC Dallas. The club was the Burn when Jason Kreis scored 18 goals in 1999 and FC Dallas when Kenny Cooper did the same in 2008.
Kreis was the club’s first star, a striker who became Major League Soccer’s first American-born MVP when he won the award in 1999 on the back of 18 goals. He also collected 15 assists and won the scoring title under MLS’s original criteria that combined the two stats. Kreis was the Burn’s top scorer for five of the club’s first eight seasons and ended his playing career second on the all-time scoring list.
The constant churn of MLS from new era to new era sometimes obscures the past, when MLS clubs mostly played in American football stadiums, and salaries were a fraction of current levels. Kreis deserves recognition for helping to establish the Burn in Dallas and being one of the league’s first truly consistent goalscorers.
Cooper matched Kreis’s regular season goal total a decade later as part of a team that failed to make the playoffs in 2008. He finished second in the Golden Boot race to Landon Donovan. What Cooper’s standout season added was a local connection.
The son of a professional player who settled in Dallas after his playing career, the younger Cooper played high school soccer in the city before starting his professional journey in Europe. He signed with FC Dallas in 2006 and spent four seasons in Texas, scoring 40 goals over four seasons before returning to Europe.
Back before MLS academies took root and clubs developed talent from the local community, a former Dallas high school star sharing the record for most goals in a season at a club that didn’t exist when he was born was a feel-good, hometown hero story in Dallas. It still is, though the scope has changed across MLS.
Ferreira moved to the Dallas area as a child when his dad David signed with FC Dallas. In his first season in MLS, David Ferreira played with Cooper in 2009. A year later, Ferreira took home the league’s top individual honor with a stellar 2010 season. His play carried FC Dallas to an MLS Cup final that year when Dallas fell to the Colorado Rapids in Toronto.
David Ferreira’s move to Dallas led to his son joining the nascent FC Dallas academy, gaining American citizenship, and eventually becoming a star for club and country. It is still early enough in the explosion of homegrown talent across MLS that the younger Ferreira will add his name to the shortlist of homegrown players who have led their teams in scoring in a season.
It’s a special thing when a player raised in soccer by his hometown team becomes a massive star while leading the club to on-field success.
Ferreira needs a single goal from the final three games of the regular season to set a new club record. Based on the current form of the player and team, he should get the chance. Dallas has plenty to play for, sitting in third in the Western Conference with designs on catching Austin FC in second.
To call Ferreira’s season a “breakout” campaign would be to sell it short. Tapped to be the face of FC Dallas for the foreseeable future when the club handed him a Designated Player contract ahead of the season, Ferreira has more than rewarded the club’s faith.
An 8-goal output in a playmaking role last season convinced FC Dallas that Ferreira was worth a significant investment despite his age. In the short term, Dallas believed Ferreira would help the club win games and better compete for trophies in MLS. In the long term, there was always the chance of a big money transfer abroad.
Ferreira’s rise to prominence with the USMNT helped his standing in MLS and with FC Dallas. Still, his club made a decision far too uncommon in MLS by giving a young American player the kind of contract often reserved for talent from abroad. That Ferreira is in the hunt for the Golden Boot and well on his way to the World Cup is validation on a level even Dallas’s brass couldn’t have imagined.
The odds are not in Ferreira’s favor when it comes to the Golden Boot, though stranger things have happened in the final weeks of an MLS season. If he does manage to jump over Daniel Gazdag, Sebastian Driussi, and Hany Mukhtar for the title, he’ll be Major League Soccer’s first American Golden Boot winner since Chris Wondolowski in 2012.
Americans haven’t often cracked the top five in goal scoring in the decade since Wondolowski hit 27. Ferreira’s former teammate Ricardo Pepi was the highest-scoring American in 2021 when he fired home 14 goals. He finished twelfth. In the Covid-shortened season of 2020, Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris finished fourth (Zardes, 12) and fifth (Morris, 10). Wondolowski tied for fifth with two others in 2019. Dom Dwyer ended in a tie for fifth in 2016. Dwyer and Lee Nguyen made the top five in 2014 (Dwyer second, Nguyen fourth). Mike Magee finished fourth in 2013.
FC Dallas’s improvement from last year’s also-ran finish is attributable to many factors. Smart acquisitions in the primary and secondary windows brought up the level of talent. Head coach Nico Estevez elevated the tactical approach and accentuated the team’s strengths. Players like Paxton Pomykal returned to top form after a lost season due to injury.
But the most obvious difference for Dallas from 2021 to 2022 is the performance of Ferreira. Despite being thrust into the brightest possible spotlight, Ferreira raised his game and met the promise of this talent. Ferreira’s 2022 season is already a success on an individual level. Now he hopes that team achievement lies ahead. At 21, this is just the beginning for Jesus Ferreira.
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- What we’re already seeing from American players in Belgium’s Pro League in 2022-23
- What Matt Miazga already means to FC Cincinnati
- Shaq Moore, Daniel Lovitz, and Dax McCarty on Nashville’s situation after beating FC Dallas
Photo by Bill Barrett – ISIPhotos.com