Austin FC's bogeyman: Jesús Ferreira lifts FC Dallas to another rivalry win


Big players score big goals in big matches, and Jesús Ferreira did just that in the 89th minute Saturday night to lift FC Dallas to a 1-0 Rivalry Week win at Texas rival Austin FC.

The well-taken breakaway effort gave the 22-year-old forward something of a signature moment in a season that’s felt a bit short on headlines despite a steadily growing goal tally. His sixth strike in 12 matches now places him squarely in the top five for 2023’s MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi. But unlike the four players above him (Cristian Espinoza, Dénis Bouanga, Jordan Morris and Hany Mukhtar), Ferreira’s only made one MLS Team of the Matchday presented by Audi – and that was way back in Matchday 2.

Perhaps fittingly, the US men’s national teamer savored the moment, taking off his shirt and proudly displaying its backside to Austin’s supporters’ sections as if to remind them, and the rest of MLS, of his name and stature in the league.

“This is what we should expect of him,” said Dallas head coach Nico Estevez of last year’s Best XI presented by Continental Tire player. “We should ask him to do this type of performance because he has the capacity.”

Beyond the goal, which resulted from a lung-busting off-ball run to split Austin’s center backs, Estevez was proud of Ferreira’s physical efforts in all phases of the game. The second-year head coach believes it's in that non-stop work rate that the homegrown striker can make himself truly elite.

“If he wants to raise his top level, he has to do an amazing performance physically. Like pressing, running, fighting," Estevez said. "This is what makes him different. He has the ability to repeat actions at high speed. And this is what other players cannot do.”

The theme of Dallas giving extra effort to defeat their in-state rivals didn’t stop with Ferreira. Estevez also praised the gutsy performance of veteran midfielder Sebastian Lletget as crucial in stopping Austin’s possession-heavy attack.

“On Friday in the morning at 8:30, I sat with some of the players and said ‘Hey, guys, this is the plan, and if we do this, we'll minimize Austin's attack,'" said Estevez. "But you need one of the players to sacrifice in order that this works, and Lletget stepped up and said 'I'm doing it, I'll do it.' And then you saw how he worked today, how he battled today and how he helped the team defensively. This is what leaders do.”

Arriola injured

Unfortunately for Dallas, going the extra mile had its pitfalls. Star winger Paul Arriola had to be removed for what Estevez described as a likely pulled quad sustained during an attempt on goal.

“It doesn't look very good, to be honest,” said Estevez. “... We have to double-check and do an MRI.”

But there won't be any rest for the weary. Dallas must now prepare for a home match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) before hosting Houston Dynamo FC, their original Texas Derby foe, next Saturday (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Despite riding a high from dispatching an Austin side that eliminated Dallas from the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, Estevez is more focused on rest and recovery than his club's next looming derby match.

“It feels great," Estevez said. "… And right now, we cannot even think about what is coming on next Saturday. We just focus on recovery and think on Vancouver. It's going to be a really difficult game.”