FRISCO, Texas — During Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Atlanta United, midfielder Edwin Cerrillo made a key play in the latter stages of the match.
After receiving a pass from leftback John Nelson, Cerrillo played a deep ball to Michael Barrios, launching him on the counter. Barrios then found Bryan Acosta in the middle of the box, securing the dagger for an FC Dallas victory.
Plays like that are now the norm for the homegrown Cerrillo, who was signed on Feb. 14. Cerrillo has made six appearances for FCD and has been important in the absence of Acosta, who was out with an ankle injury. When coach Luchi Gonzalez was brought in to replace Oscar Pareja, one of the constants was the belief in the young player. Cerrillo was not signed until late in the preseason, but he was involved in top drills, battling among the seasoned veterans. The confidence from Gonzalez has rubbed off on Cerrillo, who has begun to string together performances that have put him on the radar in MLS.
“He knew the player I was, so from the start, we would talk and he would give me that confidence that he knows that I can play at the next level, but it was ultimately going to be up to me,” Cerrillo told Pro Soccer USA. “Just from the start of preseason, he kept motivating me and telling me to work hard and actually fight to get minutes because he knew I was capable. I think after the first start I got against Colorado, it just got to me that he did really believe in me so I just took that moment and kept going with all these starts.”
Cerrillo’s debut came in FCD’s 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy on March 9 with more than 40 family members watching him play. The minutes he has been receiving place him with the homegrown core of FC Dallas, alongside Jesus Ferriera, Paxton Pomykal and Reggie Cannon.
His latest start came in Atlanta, where he had four tackles, three clearances and completed 15 out of 17 passes. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is an intimidating place and Cerrillo even admitted he was a little on edge before the match.
“Honestly, at first I was a bit nervous,” Cerrillo said. “Huge stadium and so many people there and obviously, they’re the champs from last year. Once we came out for the warm-ups, all the nerves went away. From the possession and the warm-ups that we did, I started to get my confidence there before the game started. The national anthem and the pregame stuff, I was just cool, calm and collected. When the game started, I showed that as well and as the game went on, I just kept trying to do my thing and help the team as much as I can and work hard.”
Cerrillo’s poise and composure on the ball and in tighter situations would not be expected of someone his age. Gonzalez likens him to FC Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets with his vision and passing. His midfielder partner, Pomykal, also points out the silky smooth play Cerrillo has during matches.
“Clean. Solid. Those are the first two words that come to mind with Edwin,” Pomykal told Pro Soccer USA. “He does his job very well and you know you can depend on him defensively, to get stuck in and make the tackle. He doesn’t really look like an 18-year-old kid out there. The way he plays is more like a seasoned vet. He gets on the ball, relaxes and more of a suave kinda guy.”
For Cerrillo, the attributes he posses has been shaped by his father and his older brother. As a child, he played against older family members and grew up as a soccer player. Cerrillo’s dad played in an academy in Mexico and never made it pro, but he has helped with his son’s development as a player.
“I honestly get it from my dad,” Cerrillo said. “When I was 10 or 11, he would take me to his games and I would play with him in the men’s league against older people and older guys. He’s obviously taught me a lot. It’s just the way my dad plays as well. Just watching him play and playing beside him, he just tells me to not be nervous and stay calm and keep touching the ball. As I grew up, my dad just coaching from the side and giving me pointers – I would just get the calmness and composure from him- and I think it’s just been a part of my game ever since.”
Cerrillo has slowly moved his way up to receive some consideration for the Under-20 World Cup in May, potentially joining his teammates Pomykal and Brandon Servania in Poland with the United States. However, Gonzalez spoke about Cerrillo’s focus on FC Dallas and how he is willing to grow as a player to learn from his errors.
“[U20s] is not his priority,” Gonzalez said to Pro Soccer USA. “He wants to be the best today for the shirt he wears cause I know him well and I know his family. That’s what he shows. If that happens in terms of the 20s, that’ll be organic. It’s just great to see a game like Philly where it wasn’t easy to play and Edwin had some challenging moments in the game and we were critical in video. Just as a young man to take that and use the feedback and make adjustments and have a game like Atlanta with positive improvements away from home, under a stressful situation and a team that’s going for it. It shows you his mentality. He has a tough mentality.”
Even if Cerrillo does not make the U-20 roster, he will have the opportunity to play with Dallas as other players will be missing due to international competition. Cerrillo is just going with the flow and is focused on one team at a time, just trying to do what he can to provide three points during the weekend.
“Honestly, I got called into two camps about two years ago, so I [have] always been under the radar, you can say,” Cerrillo said. “Coming into this year for my first year as a professional, my focus wasn’t on the U-20s. I knew I was eligible, but I wanted to prove myself first with FC Dallas and just so I can get minutes. Thankfully, I’m doing that, but it’d be nice to go to a World Cup and be seen or make the roster.
“… If I don’t get called up, it won’t be a big disappointment because I’ve always been under the radar. If I do make it, it’d obviously be another goal that I have here.”