Jesus Ferreira is a 21-year-old forward who currently plays for FC Dallas. Ferreira is the son of former FC Dallas star and Colombian national team player Davide Ferreira and as such has played in Dallas’ system for his whole career. He made his professional debut in 2017 before going on loan to the Tulsa Roughnecks (who were Dallas’ affiliate club at the time) in 2018. His loan spell was very successful with six goals and two assists in a little under 1000 minutes. He returned to the Dallas first team and had a strong 2019 season with 8 goals and five assists. He didn’t have a very strong 2020 season, which was heavily disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. But in the 2021 season, he recorded 8 goals and 8 assists leading to FC Dallas re-signing him to a Designated Player contract. He has 12 caps and 7 goals for the US national team, though it should be noted four of those goals were scored against 171st-ranked Grenada. For most of his career, Ferreira has played a #10 role but recently he has been deployed as a false 9. He’s off to a very strong start in the 2022 season and I gave him an A1 rating in a match against the New England Revolution. So I thought it would be worthwhile to take a bit of a deeper look into his play and his prospects to move on to bigger and better things.
Ferreira has played most of his career as a #10 but recently has switched to playing as a striker. Therefore it is unsurprising that Ferreira frequently drops into the midfield to receive passes and try to link up with his wingers. Sometimes he plays a ball into the channel for his winger to run on to and sometimes he plays an outlet pass before continuing his run into the box. As an example of this, take the following footage from a game this season against the Portland Timbers. Ferreira had three goals and an assist in this game and three of them involved his linkup play. In all of these clips, he drops off of the opposing defensive line to receive the ball and then either plays in a teammate or starts a move that ends with him scoring.
This footage is quintessential Ferreira. He is extremely potent in the space between the defensive and midfield lines and has enough penalty box presence to be a goal threat as well. His offensive ability is underscored when we look at the numbers. Ferreira, at the time of writing, is in the 83rd percentile for expected assists amongst MLS forwards. This demonstrates what an effective playmaker he is when compared to his peers. What’s more, it’s not just the final ball where he is effective. If you look at his passing statistics on Fbref then you will see, more or less, a wall of green. As you’ll see in all of the footage included in this article, he likes to be involved all over the pitch.
Ferreira is not the sort of striker who is always going to be on the shoulder of the last defender. He prefers to drop deeper and be a bit more involved in the buildup. But he is reasonably quick and sometimes he can use that to get in behind the opposition backline with great effect. We can see some examples in the clips below.
Likewise, Ferreira is not a volume dribbler. He does carry the ball quite a lot, as he drops into deeper spaces where he is less likely to be closed down quickly and is often running into space. But he does not take players on 1v1 very often. Usually, he will try and pass through a defence rather than dribbling. That said though, he is not without dribbling skill, and he can certainly beat a defender. In general, Ferreira is a very strong technical player. His first touch is mostly very good. He’s very comfortable having the ball at his feet and that supports his overall attacking prowess.
Despite his many offensive gifts, Ferreira is not the most clinical goal scorer of all time. Ferreira averages only 0.36 expected goals per game. That’s nothing to sneeze at but it is a little on the low side for a striker. Part of this is a trade-off for Ferreira’s link-up play. Because he is always dropping deeper, he can’t always be in the penalty area. But I have also noticed that sometimes he seems to lack the killer instinct to make the run to the dangerous areas of the box. Instead, his instinct is to float around the top of the box, waiting for the ball to be cut back to him. You can see this in the fact that he has an average shot distance of 17.6 yards, which is quite far away for a striker. This can all work in the right setting. On a team where the main scoring threats are the wingers or he was paired with another striker, Ferreira would thrive. But anybody signing him to be the main goal threat for the team is setting themselves up for disappointment. Conversely, if Ferreira can improve his tap-in game a bit, he would become a truly elite striker. He’s 21 so there is still time for him to make some adjustments to his game. In a sense, the fact he’s this effective with this kind of weakness in his game might make him extra appealing to development clubs who would be looking to eventually flip him for a profit.
Another weakness of Ferreira’s is that, at 5’9 and 159lbs, he is quite small. He plays with a lot of intensity but he is always going to be limited in what he can do in physical battles. Unsurprisingly he has one of the worst aerial win percentages in MLS amongst strikers.
In addition to his offensive exploits, Ferreira is a tireless and effective presser. He has great stamina and speed which helps him to close down defenders. But he does not just run around like a chicken with its head cut off. He is very good at trapping defenders in tight corners and forcing them to give the ball away. He also often tracks quite far back to make defensive interventions. Let’s look at some footage.
The stats are in full agreement with the video. Ferreira is one of the leaders amongst MLS strikers in things like tackles, pressures, and successful pressures.
Overall, I think Ferreira is a very effective player who could thrive at a higher level so long as he is played in the correct role. Unfortunately, I think his middling goal-scoring ability would probably preclude him from playing at the very top of a big five league. But his defensive work rate could make him an effective player in a bottom-half team in a big five league. FC Dallas has been bad for a lot of the time Ferreira has been with them so he has been productive on a bad team before. Alternatively, he could be a good player for a team in a smaller league that plays in continental competition. Former MLS players Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchanan have both signed for Club Brugge in the last couple of seasons, perhaps something like that could be a good fit for Ferreira. Again, this is all contingent on him either playing as more of a playmaking forward than a traditional striker. Additionally, Ferreira is unlikely to come cheap. FC Dallas re-signed him to a designated player contract earlier this year. It would probably still be possible to pry him away but you’re not going to get him for pennies on the dollar.