Dallas Players Display Mixed Results for the United States on the World Cup Stage So Far

Little Elm's Weston McKennie played a pivotal role in the United States' win over Iran in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Little Elm's Weston McKennie played a pivotal role in the United States' win over Iran in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Dan Mullan_Getty
In the months leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup there was ample reason to think the cleat markings of FC Dallas would be all over the turf of the newly built stadiums of Qatar. Soccer studs who spent their younger years rising up through the ranks of FC Dallas’ highly regarded youth academy teams, players who spent early, formative years of their major league careers in Frisco or, better yet, current stars for the squad at Toyota Stadium seemed destined to take up a sizable chunk of the 26-member United States men’s soccer team roster.

Five players with strong FC Dallas ties were named to the team, including Jesus Ferreira, the 21-year-old prolific goal scorer who just received the MLS Young Player of the Year award. Plano’s Kellyn Acosta, who now kicks balls in Los Angeles after many seasons with both the FC Dallas academy and the senior squad, joined Ferreira on the American team, as did former FC Dallas youth academy player Shaq Moore, and Walker Zimmerman, a star defender drafted by FC Dallas in 2013 who played there until being traded to Los Angeles FC in 2017.

Little Elm’s Weston McKennie, a midfielder who played in the FC Dallas academy 2009–2016, was an obvious selection. As a current starter for Italian titans Juventus, McKennie was considered by many soccer pundits as vital to any possible U.S. success in Qatar.

McKennie and Zimmerman were each considered to be shoe-in starters for head coach Gregg Berhalter, with some journalists giving Ferreira a decent shot at starting in the striker position. But games aren’t played on paper, podcasts or morning sports talk shows. And the decision-making coach isn't always on the same page as the public.

United States v. Wales – Monday, Nov. 21

The U.S. team’s first match, against Wales on Monday, Nov. 21, was a letdown from just about every angle. As assumed, McKennie and Zimmerman started the game, and Acosta was subbed-in during the second half. The Americans were easily the better of the two squads in the first half, taking a 1-0 lead, but were just as clearly the lesser team in the second half, when Wales tied the match with a successful penalty kick.

Not only did Ferreira and Moore stay seated on the bench, but McKennie and Acosta each earned yellow cards for hard penalties. And it was Zimmerman who committed the reckless penalty in front of the goalie that allowed Wales to tie the match, resulting in what felt more like a defeat.

United States v. England – Friday, Nov. 25

Things went slightly better for all involved on Friday when the Americans took on England in arguably the most eagerly anticipated match of the World Cup group stage. McKennie and Zimmerman again started, with Acosta following as a sub later. Zimmerman’s play wasn’t great for the second consecutive match, but McKennie showed off his speed and vision rather well, forcing England to keep him covered tight after missing one of the best shots either team would get for the 90 minutes.

Moore was also added as a sub and made his World Cup debut. Unlike in the match against Wales, none of the Dallas guys were given a yellow card, but also unlike the Wales match, the Americans failed to score even a single goal.

“Jesus Ferreira has to be thinking ‘What do I have to do to get in this thing?’” – Clint Dempsey, Fox analyst

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The 0-0 result was a better one than many had predicted for the underdog U.S. team. The point they earned in the group standings for the draw meant they were still alive to possibly advance out of the group stage and into the knockout rounds of the tournament. After the England match, some pundits wondered if Ferreira would get his shot at starting in the striker position for the U.S. given that Berhalter’s picks in the first two matches had failed to yield much offense to that point.

Two draws in two matches meant that the U.S. would have to win against Iran to advance. After a lopsided loss to England to start its tournament, Iran rebounded to shock Wales for a 2-0 victory, placing them ahead of the U.S. going into the final group stage matchup.

United States v. Iran – Tuesday, Nov. 29

When the starting lineup was announced about an hour before the 1 p.m. kickoff on Tuesday, only McKennie was a starter from the group of players with local ties. The USMNT’s official Twitter account said the lineup was the youngest one to start in the 2022 World Cup so far.

Most of American soccer fans’ focus was on the repeated exclusion of the dynamic attacking midfielder, Gio Reyna. Berhalter again opted to platoon Reyna to the bench, along with Dallas’ most promising young star, Ferreira.

Early in the match, the U.S. applied pressure to Iran’s defense, manufacturing a couple of prime scoring opportunities. Just before the end of the first half, McKennie executed a beautiful pass up the field to Sergino Dest near the goal. Dest headed the ball to a surging Christian Pulisic, who scored as he crashed into Iran’s goalkeeper.

The U.S. had the lead they needed, but they had to keep it.

Acosta subbed on early in the second half, replacing McKennie. Moore and Zimmerman came in shortly thereafter to bolster the defense with fresh legs as the Americans nervously protected their goal advantage from becoming a 1-1 tie that would send them back to the States. Zimmerman soared multiple times late in the match to head away a barrage of balls near the goal. His efforts helped solidify the lead and secure the 1-0 victory. It was a redemptive few minutes for the former FC Dallas star.

So, yes, the United States men’s soccer team has achieved its primary goal of advancing to the knockout round of 16. The team will face the Netherlands on Saturday, Dec. 3, for a spot in the final eight. So far, the Dallas guys haven't exactly dominated the tournament, but they’ve made their marks to varying degrees. Except for one.

We’ll echo what Fox analyst and American soccer legend Clint Dempsey had to say on the Fox post-game broadcast: “Jesus Ferreira has to be thinking ‘What do I have to do to get in this thing?’”
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Kelly Dearmore

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