FRISCO, Texas — It has been an exciting 2019 for FC Dallas midfielder Edwin Cerrillo.
After signing a Homegrown contract Feb. 14, Cerrillo worked his way up the depth chart, earning 592 minutes under coach Luchi Gonzalez, proving to be a key piece in the midfield rotation.
His performances caught the eye of United States Under-20 coach Tab Ramos, who put him on the his roster for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which begins Thursday. Cerrillo’s inclusion would not have been anticipated at the beginning of the year, but the 18-year-old’s composure and playing time at the Major League Soccer level helped make the decision for Ramos.
“I think Edwin clearly showed, by his display in Dallas, that he deserved to go,” Ramos said during a roundtable with reporters in New York on May 10. “I spoke to Luchi many times about his qualities and about how he plays and the function that he covers for Dallas in particular, which could be different for us. But he’s a great soccer player. His ability to cover ground and physically, the level he’s at, which from what I’ve been told, he’s a little bit off the charts on the physical side of the game.”
Cerrillo was not involved in training camps in preparation for the U-20 World Cup and was not a player Ramos was familiar with, unlike FCD teammates Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania, who were also called up. When Cerrillo received the call from Ramos, he said he was speechless.
“I was a bit surprised, actually,” Cerrillo said after FC Dallas’ 3-1 loss against the New York Red Bulls. “I knew there was a 50/50 chance I was going to go, and honestly if I didn’t go, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world for me. I’m happy that Tab took that chance on me and wanted to call me up, . . . just an emotional moment for me and my family, just to be able to live out that dream of playing in a World Cup. I’m glad I got the opportunity.”
While the prospect of playing in a World Cup may distract players from their club tasks, that hasn’t been the case for Cerrillo. Gonzalez praised him earlier this season for his ability to focus on whatever is on his plate and not look ahead, something that came across in Cerrillo’s disappointment after Dallas drew LAFC 1-1 at home last week.
But he’s still looking ahead a bit, taking advice from Pomykal and Servania on how to prepare for such a big stage with the U-20s.
“When I was talking to Paxton and Brandon, they just told me to go out there with confidence,” Cerrillo said. “It’s a new team and I’m pretty much the only player that hasn’t really been in the camps, but I know we have that chemistry from training and the games and just coming up from the academy. I think I’ll be very comfortable playing with those guys.”
Gonzalez has believed in Cerrillo from the get-go. During MLS preseason, Cerrillo was the only academy player practicing with the squad. Gonzalez played him when others may have thought he was not ready. While all of the U-20 players making the roster bring joy to the coach, Cerrillo was a bit special since he was previously off the national team radar.
“We love them,” Gonzalez said of the three players heading to the World Cup. “We’re thinking of them and we wish them the best representing our country. We miss them, but they’re having a great experience and we hope to see them soon — but not too soon, because we want to them to get far into the tournament, even if it means if we’re missing some important players and people for our club. We know they’re gaining something valuable in the long run.”
“He’s happy,” Cerrillo said of Gonzalez. “I think we earned this opportunity. He’s going to let us grow to the best of our abilities, and it’s a chance for us to get an experience and to just have a different feel of things. We’ll come back hungry after World Cup, but I think FC Dallas does a great job in developing players and I’m just glad we all got released to go.”
From being overlooked to the U-20 World Cup, Cerrillo’s career has taken off in 2019. But his work isn’t done, and he said that chip on his shoulder won’t go away.
“I think that’s part of what makes me the player that I am,” Cerrillo said. “I always try to play with a chip on my shoulder. You can say I got overlooked in my years in the academy, but everything happens for a reason, and if I were to go back and change anything, I probably wouldn’t.
“I gotta start from zero again. I don’t know many of the guys. I know a couple of them, but its a new team with a new coach, and from the first day, I need to go out there and prove.”