After acquiring citizenship & making USMNT debut, Ferreira aims high in 2020
February 11, 2020
THERE PROBABLY HASN’T been an American soccer player who has had a more eventful stretch in recent months than Jesus Ferreira, both as a player and as a person. For all the talk about U.S. Soccer incoporating dual nationals over the last few decades, Ferreira’s case was clearly different because until mid-December, he wasn’t even a dual national.
After a strong first full professional season with FC Dallas where he scored eight goals and notched six assists, Ferreira announced just a week before his 19th birthday on December 16 that he had acquired American citizenship. It was a moment that held significance for Ferreira on many levels, but representing the United States internationally was among them.
Ferreira had an invitation to participate in January camp but to play for the U.S. in a game, citizenship was just part of the equation. He also needed to obtain a waiver from FIFA for its residency requirements for naturalized citizens. This is typically given when a player can prove he didn’t move to a country for footballing reasons. Then obviously, he also needed to impress in camp and show he deserved to play in the friendly against Costa Rica.
Fortunately for Ferreira, he was cleared by FIFA days before the game. It was also around tghat time he informed U.S. Soccer that he was committed to the program. After that, Gregg Berhalter elected to start Ferreira, who put on a solid performance in a 1-0 win.
“For a lot of the time, I was studying to get those 100 questions down,” Ferreira told ASN of getting his citizenship. “I wanted to make sure because you only get one opportunity to pass. I was making sure that I was going to ace it. There is so much going through my head that I want to play for the U.S., I want to represent the country. There were a lot of emotions coming into the first game but that's what I've been waiting and working for. And finally, it pays off. That moment was just a lot of happiness.”
Ferreira’s mind was not completely made up when he arrived in camp but he knew he had to make a decision soon if he wanted to represent the United States. Born just a week too late to be eligible for the current U-20 cycle, the only remaining youth tournament he is eligible to participate is the U-23 team this year.
And his ties to his native Colombia are also noteworthy – particularly on the soccer side. His father, David Ferreira, was a prominent member of the Colombian national team and participated in three Copa Americas – winning the 2001 tournament. Jesus Ferreira moved with his father to the United States when his father moved to Texas to play with FC Dallas in 2009.
“There's a lot of communication back and forth between my mom and I,” Ferreira recalled of his decision. “I wanted to make a decision that both me and my family were happy with. I don't want to want to make a decision by myself. It wouldn't affect my feelings towards my family but we all came to an agreement that the U.S. was going to be something that we all enjoy and I know that the U.S. has given me a lot. They've seen me grow. That's where we live in now. That's where I signed my first professional contract. This is where I played pro for three years and this is where I grew up.”
But Ferreira also points out that a huge factor that went into his decision was the fact that the U.S. showed interest with previous call-ups to important youth national team camps – despite him not being eligible yet to play for the United States.
It began with a U-20 call-up by Tab Ramos in January 2019 as the U.S. team was preparing for the World Cup later that year. Then in September, Ferreira was called up by the U.S. U-23 team for a camp in the United States.
“I went to the U-20 camp in January and I went to the U-23 camp here,” Ferreira said. “Those were very special moments, knowing that the coaches can't play you and can't have you on rosters but they still have you in mind to call you into a camp and take one of those spots over a player that can play. Those camps helped me understand the system, understand the coaches, where the coaches wanted me to play.”
Now Ferreira is back with FC Dallas where he is hoping to lead the team to a return to the playoffs with the goal of earning postseason games at home. And already, Ferreira is looking sharp in preseason where he scored a fantastic goal in a draw with Los Angeles FC.
But FC Dallas is a different type of club in MLS. It is well represented on U.S. youth national teams at every level and the FC Dallas first team has built and utilizes a young core of domestically produced players. Ferreira is a key member but he is joined by Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and Reggie Cannon.
Ferreira has progressed all the way through the FC Dallas academy to the first team and he credits the club for his development as a professional.
“Growing up and being in the academy, you always took that opportunity whenever they were calling up players to train with the first team, you always want to take advantage because we wanted to learn from the best,” Ferreira explained. “I think that's what FC Dallas does different. We incorporate our academy guys a lot into our training. To be able to see all of our players going into U.S. camps, it's amazing and it shows us that maybe those trainings, and that connection - it really pays off.”
Luchi Gonzalez has known Ferreira well for years having served as the FC Dallas academy director before taking the first team job at the start of 2019. Gonzalez points out that Ferreira has often been put into positions where he has had to mature at a young age. It has helped him get through difficult situations in the past and will help him fight through the coming challenges in 2020 that come with being an established player.
“He was that player that was going to compete with Josh Sargent with the 2000's but he couldn't get it official with citizenship,” Gonzalez said. “I know first-hand coaching him at the different age groups, how much he suffered - not being able to go to national team camps. He's like the man of the house with his younger brothers, his mom, his grandmother, at the house. He's had to really grow up quickly and mature. I'm really proud of him. And for him to take advantage of the opportunities over the past year, I'm not surprised.
“But now it's about the next step and doing more and working even harder, because now he's the player that opposition wants to shut down,” Gonzalez added. “I think he has a heart of gold and he wants to keep getting better and he listens and responds to his teammates and the staff. He's just channeling that into motivation to do everything he can with his his next opportunity.”
The next major step for Ferreira could come next month when the U.S. U-23 team will attempt to qualify for the Olympics after two previously failed attempts. Ferreira’s performance in 2019 with Dallas and with the U.S. team at camp makes him a strong contender to be one of the team’s most important players.
Ferreira knows the stakes and is looking forward to helping to get the team back to Tokyo just months after becoming an American.
“That's a huge tournament,” Ferreira said. “It would be a dream come true if we can make it and qualify. We haven't made it since 2008. Outside of the World Cup that's one of the biggest tournaments. There's such a good group that we have right now, that it's going to be hard for the coach. And that's how you know that we have a good group.”