FRISCO - The FC Dallas U-16 Academy team punched its ticket to the USSDA National Semifinal with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night.
Forward Jesus Ferreira scored all three goals for Dallas and wasted no time getting an early lead with a shot inside the far post in just the second minute, putting the U-16's up 1-0. Several shots followed in the first half, including a shot from Aldo Quevedo in the 14th minute and one from Brandon Servania in the 32nd, but nothing else could find the back of the net in the opening half. Ferreira came back in the 53rd minute to score his second goal of the game and completed his hat trick just five minutes later after successfully finding a gap in Salt Lake's defense.
Real Salt Lake got on the board in the 71st minute and came on strong in the final 10 minutes of the match looking to prolong their season, but FCD held on to the 3-1 scoreline to advance to the Semifinal round on Thursday, July 14 in Carson, Calif.
"We've been preparing for this moment for two weeks and we realized that we had a hard team in front of us. We lost to them and we didn't like that feeling afterwards," Ferreira said, referencing the U-16's 3-2 loss to Salt Lake at the USSDA Winter Showcase in December. "We had our crowd here and our team had a good performance."
Head coach Luchi Gonzalez praised his whole team, and Ferreira's performance, saying he was focused even before the game started.
"He's a talented player, but I've coached a lot of talented players and he understands that he has to compliment that talent with urgency, with desire, with teamwork, and that's why he had a special night," Gonzalez said. "I don't think he plays for himself, he plays for the group and that shows his character."
Gonzalez also said he has a lot of respect for Real Salt Lake and he appreciates that they always play well with tactics and organization.
"We knew it was going to be very difficult, [Real Salt Lake's] ranking is not a judgment of that team, so hats off to them," he said. "We wanted to be aggressive from the beginning and not let it come down to the wire and I feel like the boys showed that spirit and that attitude, so I think it's a product of a lot of desire and a lot of work."
Ferreira said the support from the crowd, especially the U-18's who cheered loudly from the sidelines the night before a Quarterfinal match of their own, helped motivate the team to keep going. Gonzalez also thanked the entire club for the support.
"The staff were excellent in their preparation, along with the professionals and the higher ups," Gonzalez said. "Our first team staff and first team players were out here supporting, it just shows that our club cares a lot. We're a big family and I'm just honored to be a part of it."
Looking ahead to the Semifinals, Gonzalez likes his team's chances.
"We're down to the top four and I think our attitude is to go there and it's a business trip we have to approach it as such," he said. "I'm proud of getting through tonight and I think there's a lot of desire. It's a great opportunity, we get to represent the club and we're going to push this as far as we can."