As FC Dallas Homegrown midfielder Edwin Cerrillo took the hand of his mascot to walk out the tunnel into Toyota Stadium for his first MLS start on Saturday, the 18-year-old had a flashback from half his lifetime ago.
Cerrillo was nine years old and it was long before he would join the famed FCD academy, much less be moments away from his first MLS start. Just a fan of the club, Cerrillo was able to be a mascot himself one game. He followed his heroes onto the pitch, looking around and dreaming that one day, maybe, it would be him.
"It was a moment I still remember," Cerrillo told MLSsoccer.com. "Now being one of the players getting ready to play — it was incredible."
Then, standing on the field awaiting his home MLS debut to kick off, Cerrillo thought about the times when he was in the academy watching games from the stands and dreaming that one day, maybe, it would be him.
“Walking out with the little kids for the national anthem, I just said to myself ‘I’m here — I’m here for a reason,’" Cerrillo said. "I just got that extra confidence, just like in the locker room from all the coaches and players that had my back.”
That confidence was easily apparent once the game kicked off.
Cerrillo completed joint-team-high 66 passes at a rate of 91.2 percent while losing possession only six times, fewest of all the club's starters. He marauded the midfield alongside 19-year-old Paxton Pomykal and 22-year-old Pablo Aranguiz as if the trio were veterans, helping lead Dallas to a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
“It was a great step to get my first start, but just like the whole team, we have to flip the page and take it one day at a time," Cerrillo said, staying grounded. "I enjoyed that moment with my family, but Monday I got back to work to focus on the next day.”
Cerrillo signed a Homegrown deal late in February, not long before Dallas' opening MLS match of 2019. Conventional wisdom would suggest the player was likely ticketed for regular playing time at North Texas SC, the club's newfound USL League One side.
Even the player himself presumed that plan.
“Everything has come quickly, it’s unexpected to be honest," Cerrillo admitted. "If I’m being realistic I thought I’d start with the second team. But from preseason I’ve been working hard, trying to win my spot and prove I could break into the first team quickly.”
Instead of playing with North Texas, Cerrillo has featured now twice for FC Dallas in their opening four MLS matches, being named to the bench in the other two games.
Unknown to the casual fan ahead of the season, Cerrillo's development accelerated by featuring at the 2017 Generation Adidas Cup, where his side beat Real Madrid and eventually lost in the final.
“That was the biggest game I ever played in at the time," Cerrillo said of the win over Madrid. "There were hundreds of people there, a team like Real Madrid coming to play at our field was incredible. I don’t know, being 16 years old and having a lot of people watching that game it made us feel like pros.”
Soon, this year's GA Cup will be played as FC Dallas return as a top qualifier for the Champions Division. There, Cerrillo points out a Dallas academy player to keep an eye on.
"Diego Letayf, a holding mid," Cerrillo said. "He’s a really quality player. He’s not going to be the one that scores, but since we play the same position, I respect him a lot and the way he plays. He’s a player to watch at the GA Cup.”
One day, maybe, Letayf will be sharing the pitch at Toyota Stadium alongside Cerrillo.