FRISCO, Texas — While FC Dallas continues to fight for a top-two seed in the Western conference, forward Jesus Ferreira has been doing some work of his own on loan.
FC Dallas recently elected to send Ferreira on loan to the Tulsa Roughnecks of the United Soccer League, and the result has been six goals for Ferriera in 14 matches as he continues to mature as a player.
“It’s been good,” Ferreira told Pro Soccer USA. “I’ve been getting a lot of good minutes over here. It’s been rough getting the results we wanted, but it’s good that I’m getting minutes here and constantly getting games and getting rhythm.”
The peak of those performances came in a 4-4 draw Sept. 5 against Seattle Sounders 2. Ferreira scored a hat trick in 56 minutes. Two of the goals were set up by calm first touches, while the other came with his head. It was a strong performance that made Dallas coach Oscar Pareja proud.
“As a forward, that’s what we want to do,” Ferreira said. “We want to get goals, put the team in front. I thought I did what I was supposed to do as a forward — score goals. And I was very happy with the three goals I scored against Seattle. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but I was happy that I got those three goals.”
Loan spells have been key for players in Dallas’ system, and Tulsa seems to be their destination. Midfielder Brandon Servania has been on loan with the Roughnecks as well, playing in 16 matches and completing 82.3 percent of his passes.
In 2017, Midfielder Jacori Hayes played 10 matches for the Roughnecks. Hayes had a strong start to the 2018 MLS season and credited the loan spell, saying it was the best thing for his career and reignited his love for soccer. He spoke about the long travel, spending Monday through Thursday in Dallas before driving up to Tulsa to get ready for a Saturday match.
“It was the best case for me soccer-wise,” Hayes said in June. “Travel-wise, it sucks. Of course you want to stay in one spot, but soccer-wise, I was like, ‘I want to train with Dallas, but get games,’ and the only way I was getting games was with Tulsa. As a result, the driving was a part of it.”
For Ferriera, it’s much of the same. He played three minutes in Dallas’ 3-1 victory over the Chicago Fire July 14, but hasn’t obtained consistent playing time with the first team. He is using this spell with the Roughnecks to gain experience with the type of players he will face in MLS.
“Sometimes I didn’t make the roster in Dallas, so I’d kinda get upset,” Ferriera said. “Here, I’m getting games, I’m getting to play other teams that in the MLS we don’t play. They have different styles of players, different types of centerbacks, different types of defenders, different types of forwards. … I feel like me playing over here helps me gather more information and put more details in my system of play.”
Ferreira isn’t the biggest player on the pitch. Standing at 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing 139 pounds, the physical play of MLS is a challenge for him. He is getting a taste of that in USL, matching up against bigger opposition.
“In every team, all their centerbacks are tall,” Ferreira said. “It’s kinda hard for me because I’m small and skinny and all of them are way bigger than me. I noticed that I have to play quicker, which is going to help me in MLS. I have to use my speed.”
Along with that is the intensity of the matches. USL players are getting looked at by MLS clubs. Midfielder Mark Anthony-Kaye has made a big impact for Los Angeles FC after coming from Louisville City. Forward Cory Burke has helped the Philadelphia Union with eight goals after playing with Bethlehem Steel. FC Cincinnati, which just won the regular-season USL title, is looking to bring players from its current squad to MLS when it makes the leap next season. The league is improving and provides an intensity during matches that is tough to replicate in training at any level.
Ferreira is working on that. His confidence is very high after scoring his hat trick. He may not be able to outmuscle players at the moment, but his pace is his advantage.
“It’s a big jump,” Ferreira said of going from academy play to USL. “The intensity goes up. The rhythm goes up. You have to put more effort into the games and you have to run more. It’s very hard just to jump straight from academy to USL because you’d have to put way more effort than you’d usually have to for the academy. It’s a real game and everyone is watching it so you don’t know who’s watching it.”
With FC Dallas looking to add a USL D3 affiliate next season, positive spells like this show how important USL is for players’ development.
“I feel like that would be great after academy,” Ferreira said. “USL will have good intensity, get you to think faster, and when it comes to MLS, it’s going to be not much different, you just have to put in way more work.”