Jesus Ferreira on the ball

After sharpening up on his FIFA 20 skills during Major League Soccer’s stoppage in play, Jesus Ferreira isn’t ruling out a post-playing career as an eMLS contender.

“Maybe, that wouldn't be a bad idea,” Ferreira told Sunday from Orlando.

But now that FC Dallas are in Orlando ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament, the promising 19-year-old is turning his attentions back to what could be a huge year, after signing a new four-year contract (using TAM) in December.

“This season I want to accomplish a lot of what I did last year – get more goals, more assists. Keep the coach having me in the starting XI and just working hard,” he said. “Now that we had that break, the mentality has to switch. Now I have to tell myself its time to focus up again. Once that first game starts, we grind. We have to show everyone we can work, no matter what happens.”

The COVID-19 break came at a bad time for FC Dallas and Ferreira. The club took four points from their first two games of the 2020 season and Ferreira was in Luchi Gonzalez’s starting XI for both matches, setting up Zdenek Ondrasek for the opening goal of the campaign in a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union.

As isolation turned from weeks into months, Ferreira made the most of the stoppage. He spent time at home with his grandmother, mother and siblings, enjoying game nights and keeping his competitive juices flowing in FIFA tournaments against his college-bound friends.

“I started grinding,” Ferreira said. “I play soccer, so I need to win some FIFA tournaments.”

The spotlight is on Ferreira this season after a breakthrough 2019 in which he had eight goals and six assists through 33 matches in Gonzalez’s first season at the helm.

Ferreira was granted a waiver by FIFA that made him eligible to compete for the US men's national team after becoming an American citizen in December. He made his debut in an international friendly against Costa Rica on Feb. 1.

“That was a huge thing for me on a personal level, being able to finally represent our country,” he said. “That was a positive of the year.”

One of those touting Ferreira was veteran Dax McCarty, who listed Ferreira as one of three players with the most potential in the league entering the season. It meant a lot for Ferreira, whose father, the 2010 MLS MVP, played with McCarty at FC Dallas. Recently retired as a player, David is now a U-20 coach at AD Union Magdalena in Colombia.

“I’m happy players around the league can see me as a top young player,” Ferreira said. “That’s an amazing feeling that after he played with my dad, Dax considers me a top player. It makes me want to work harder to actually prove to people I deserve that.”

Ferreira is hoping to carry momentum into the MLS is Back Tournament, where FC Dallas have been drawn into Group B with the Vancouver Whitecaps, San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders.

The Sounders' matchup – the club’s second of three in the group stage – is one Ferreira especially looks forward to after FCD's 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs charge was halted in a wild 4-3 defeat against Seattle at CenturyLink Field.

“We still have that bitter, sour moment in our heads,” Ferreira said. “We know we could have come out of there with a win. Now that we have them in our group, we have our rematch. We have to show them we could win those games.”

Ferreira is also leery of the Earthquakes, a team that struggled in 2019 and the early portion of 2020.

“The first year with a new coaching staff, they weren’t used to it,” he said. “Now that it’s a new season and they’re playing well, you can tell they’re getting confidence under a new coach. I think that’s a team we don’t see that often, a man-marking team. Now that they’re getting the concepts, they’re going to be a difficult team to play.”

The MLS is Back Tournament is a first of its kind. If it never happens again, Ferreira and his teammates want to make sure their names are on the trophy.

“As a team we have that mentality that this tournament might never happen again and we want to be the only team to have this cup,” Ferreira said. “We’re going to have no fans, we’re away from our families, so we’re going to work hard because that’s what FC Dallas does.”