ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Jesús Ferreira gained U.S. citizenship on Dec. 16, 2019, and made his debut for the American national team last Feb. 1. Then he struggled through his second season with Dallas with one goal in 19 Major League Soccer matches.
“Obviously kind of upset,” he said. “I took it as you have to do better. You have to make sure that 2021 is a way better year than the past two years.”
Ferrieira scored his first two international goals and had three assists, leading the United States over a rusty Trinidad and Tobago 7-0 in an exhibition on Sunday night.
Paul Arriola and Jonathan Lewis scored twice each for a U.S. roster missing its Europe-based players.
Coming off a 6-2 win over Panama in November with top American players and a 6-0 rout of El Salvador last month with a group mostly from MLS, the U.S. outshot the Soca Warriors 19-2 and scored five goals for a third straight game for the first time. The last time three Americans scored two goals in a game was an 8-1 rout of the Cayman Islands in a 1993 friendly led by Joe-Max Moore, Dominic Kinnear and Mark Chung.
“It wasn’t a World Cup qualifying-caliber team based on who they had available,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said of Trinidad and Tobago, “but nonetheless, it was good to see the focus.”
Ferreira was born in Santa Marta, Colombia, and grew up in Barranquilla the son of David Ferreira, a midfielder who scored three goals in 39 international appearances for Colombia. He moved to Texas when his dad played for Dallas in MLS from 2009-13, and the family remained there even when his father switched clubs starting in 2014. He played in the Dallas academy, made a brief pro debut in 2017 and spent 2018 on loan with the Tulsa Roughnecks of the second-tier United Soccer League.
Berhalter used the 20-year-old Ferreira as a center forward who can drop back into the midfield.
“When you have wingers that can threaten the back line, you can afford to drop a striker in, because you still get that verticality,” Berhalter said. “What we talked to him about today was arriving in the penalty box, and he certainly did that. So to me, it was a complete performance.”
Lewis scored his first and second international goals, and Miles Robinson got his first.
Arriola, who last month made his first start since tearing his right ACL on Feb. 15, scored twice as the U.S. took a 4-0 halftime lead to give him three goals in his last two international matches. Arriola and Sebastian Lletget were the players on the field most likely to see significant time with the full group.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner and right back Aaron Herrera started in their debuts as the U.S. went again without Europe-based players, and 20-year-old midfielder Andrés Perea entered at the start of the second half in his debut then conceded a penalty kick with a high boot to Ryan Telfer in the 65th minute.
Perea, who plays for Orlando, started for Colombia at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and 2019 Under-20 World Cup.
Turner, 26, leapt to his right to stop Alvin Jones’ penalty kick.
“A late bloomer,” Berhalter said. “Really performs well in the league, gets his opportunity with the national team, debuts, saves a penalty to keep to maintain the shutout? It’s a storybook, a storybook type of saga.”
George Bello debuted in the 64th, Daryl Dike in the 65th and Tanner Tessmann in the 78th. There have been 63 debuts since the October 2017 loss at Trinidad that prevented the Americans from reaching the 2018 World Cup, including 40 in 23 matches since Berhalter became coach.
The 22nd-ranked Americans played just four matches in 2020, their fewest since 1987, but figure to have a far busier 2021. Two friendlies in Europe are likely in March, the U.S. meets Honduras in June in a semifinal of the first CONCACAF Nations League, and the Americans travel to Trinidad in early September for the start of World Cup qualifying delayed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Among starters, Ferreira, Lewis, Robinson, Vines, Herrera and Yueill are eligible for Olympic qualifiers in March, limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.
“The earlier we can get our hands on them, the earlier we can work with them and I think the better off this whole program will be in the future,” Berhalter said.
Lewis put the U.S. ahead 1:40 in off a pass from Ferreira, and Ferreira doubled the lead in the ninth minute with a left-footed volley from 6 yards. Arriola scored in the 22nd with a 12-yard right-footed shot and in the 41st with his left foot from just outside the penalty area.
Robinson made it 5-0 in the 52nd with a short-range diving header, Lewis got his second goal from 18 yards in the 55th, and Ferreira scored again in the 62nd with a right foot shot from near the penalty spot.
No. 103 Trinidad played for the first time under coach Terry Fenwick, a defender from England’s 1986 World Cup squad, and for the first time since November 2019. T&T opens World Cup qualifying March 24 against Guyana and are favored to advance from a first-round group that also includes the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.