Soon-to-be US international and man of the moment Ricardo Pepi, as well as four-times capped USMNT international Jesus Ferreira, both notched two goals during a first half that saw FCD score within five minutes and then fire off three goals in four minutes to distance themselves from the hosts and run out emphatic 5-3 winners at Q2 Stadium.
Head coach Luchi Gonzalez noted that the connection on display between his two talented youngsters harkens back to the one they forged as academy players – where Gonzalez famously oversaw the development of FC Dallas youth players before taking the helm of the senior team in 2018.
“They have a good chemistry,” Gonzalez said in his post-match press conference. “They have a good relationship off the field. They’re teammates from the academy. They have a lot of love for each other and each other’s families. So I think that gives them a good foundation to, on the field, show chemistry, show creativity, complementary movements, complementary energy. Not just offensively, but also defensively, to press for each other, to cover for each other. It’s never easy to expect that each will score two goals for a total of four, but it can happen when each of them get on the same page and fight for each other, fight for the club.”
The Pepi-Ferreira chemistry has helped FC Dallas mount a 4-2-2 stretch to claw back within reach of the Western Conference playoff picture with just over two months remaining in the regular season. That run started with Pepi’s record-setting hat trick in the July 24 win over the LA Galaxy, and extended with a signature win at Sporting Kansas City the next Saturday in which Ferreira and another academy alumnus, Paxton Pomykal, scored authoritative goals to make the difference.
Pepi, who capped one of the best weeks of his life with the win at Austin, acknowledged the kinship he and Ferreira share.
“I feel like our chemistry is great on and off the field," said the 18-year-old, who scored the winning penalty for MLS against Liga MX in the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target and received his first USMNT call-up this week. "We just play for each other. We love playing with each other. We love combining and it just makes it easy on the field.”
Ferreira, who used the same “on and off the field” characterization of their friendship as Pepi, expressed that he’s happy with Pepi’s call-in for World Cup Qualifiers — where Pepi talked about “giving my all to the team” after he opted to represent the US over Mexico.
“We want to see each other succeed,” a 20-year-old Ferreira said. “I’m happy for him that he gets the call-up. We know we need to ball out if we want to show people what we can do. We’re two young guys that have the same goal, and it’s to score, assist and win. And so at the end of the day, we’re going to do anything we can do to make that happen.”
Ferreira also expressed belief that his team's depth can weather Pepi's absence for FCD's next date, on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, due to his new part-time commitment. He also feels that Gonzalez's group is far more than just a two-man show.
“We have players who are ready to step in,” Ferreira asserted. “We have players on the roster who a few weeks ago weren’t even making the roster and they’re now stepping up. That’s an important thing we have on the roster is depth. So when we have players stepping into international duty, we have players who are stepping up ready to go.”