Bernard Kamungo: MLS NEXT Pro star saves FC Dallas on 2023 debut


Bernard Kamungo was frozen, struggling to comprehend what he just accomplished after his first MLS goal proved to be the 88th-minute winner for FC Dallas in a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake Saturday evening at Toyota Stadium.

“I almost stopped,” the 21-year-old forward said following the Matchday 8 Western Conference showdown.

“I didn’t want to do anything, but then I realized it was a last-minute goal and we needed that goal and I did help the team get the goal. So I started running, I didn’t know what to do.”

Kamungo has come a long way – literally. He was born in a Tanzanian refugee camp and moved to Abilene, Texas at age 14 with the help of the International Rescue Committee. Kamungo competed for Abilene High School’s varsity team before attending a 2021 open tryout for MLS NEXT Pro side North Texas SC, where he was one of four players invited to the team’s preseason training camp.

Last year, Kamungo finished second in MLS NEXT Pro’s Golden Boot race with 16 goals and five assists in 25 appearances (23 starts). He made his MLS debut in a 20-minute substitute appearance during a 1-1 draw at the San Jose Earthquakes last year, plus signed a first-team deal last August.

Now back with the first team, Kamungo impressed enough at training this week for FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez to call him off the bench in the 72nd minute vs. RSL, in a match deadlocked at 1-1.

Jáder Obrian, who also entered in the 72nd minute, started the sequence and played to Marco Farfan. The left back then sent a driven cross across the six-yard box, which was slammed home first-time by Kamungo with his left foot.

“We’re happy for him. He’s a player who’s working hard, sometimes playing and dominating with the second team,” said Jesús Ferreira, who has followed the same development pathway to FC Dallas and USMNT stardom. “Then he comes up to the first team and shows what he can do. We’re excited for him, but it’s just the start and he knows that he needs to keep working to get those opportunities.”

After his somewhat subdued, somewhat delayed goal celebration, and after the three important points were secured by FC Dallas, Kamungo was congratulated by Estevez.

“He said everything started from the training session this week and it transformed into the game,” Kamungo said after making his first appearance of the 2023 season. “He said everything I did in training, that’s why I came onto the field and helped the team, so I just need to keep going.”