FC Dallas relishes Ricardo Pepi's historic hat-trick: "He is the kid of the present"

FC Dallas relishes Ricardo Pepi's historic hat-trick: "He is the kid of the present"

Featured

FC Dallas relishes Ricardo Pepi's historic hat-trick: "He is the kid of the present"

By

Ricardo Pepi made Major League Soccer history on Saturday night, delivering the kind of performance that will only heighten already-high expectations. The 18-year-old etched his name in the MLS record book with a memorable goal-scoring display that happened to come on an emotional night for him.

FC Dallas snapped its winless run in emphatic fashion by thrashing the LA Galaxy, 4-0, at home, and it was Pepi who led the way with a hat-trick that made him the youngest MLS player to score three times in one game. The 18-year-old striker netted each of his goals inside of the first 50 minutes of the match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, and his stellar display lifted FC Dallas out of last place in the Western Conference.

“You are starting to see his potential,” said FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez. “We always talk in terms of challenging him, ‘We know you are the player of the future. It is up to you to work hard and be the player now.’ You saw him show an example that he can be the player now.”

Pepi got his memorable night started in the 27th minute, finishing the opener and game-winner with aplomb after exquisitely controlling a deflected pass inside the penalty area. He made it 2-0 just before halftime, smashing home a potent half-volley at the back post that ricocheted back to him after an initial headed effort.

The American teenager who is nicknamed El Tren — or the Train, in English — punctuated his incredible match five minutes after the intermission. Pepi instinctively hit a low shot inside of the left post from the top of the 18-yard-box after a blocked shot from teammate Szabolcs Schon eventually made its way to the center forward.

While each of Pepi’s strikes involved a bit of good fortune in the lead-up, put together they continued to show a good level of efficiency from him. Pepi not only has eight goals in 782 minutes this season now, but he is currently the American in MLS with the largest haul in 2021. This after taking five shots vs. the Galaxy and putting four on target.

“The kid is a talent and efficient,” said Gonzalez in Spanish. “… He is helping and showing he is not only the kid of the future. He is the kid of the present.”

Added Pepi: “It means a lot. I can see my hard work paying off.”

What made the hat-trick showing all the more special for the former U.S. Under-17 men’s national team player was that it came one year to the day that his grandfather, who had the exact same name, passed away.

Pepi not only celebrated his first goal vs. the Galaxy by grabbing a shirt that had his late relative’s face on it, but dedicated the game to his deceased family member.

“A year ago today my grandpa passed away, so it was for him,” said Pepi. “This night was for him and it was a very special night. I knew I was going to do this so it was for him. All three goals were dedicated to him.”

Pepi added that he would enjoy his historic shift for the night, but would quickly move on. He and FC Dallas know more tough challenges await, especially after an incredible showing like that.

“Now it is very clear you are going to get marked harder,” said Gonzalez. “Teams are going to be more physical, teams are going to scout you, and the job is going to get even harder, but I know he has got the mentality to train the extra and to do the extra and to think the extra so that he can continue to help this team get points.”

Opposing teams might not be the only ones keeping close tabs on Pepi if he keeps these goal-scoring exploits up. European clubs could also soon come calling, especially given FC Dallas’ track record of developing talented players from its academy.

For now, however, he remains an FC Dallas player. One that not only just proved the hero in a slump-busting victory, but that also made history in a thrilling manner.

“He is humble, he is hungry, and he is going to be upset he did not score four tonight. That is the kind of mentality he has,” said Gonzalez. “Whether I have got him for one month, one year, or 10 years, I am going to keep trying to help the kid grow off and on the field. He comes from a great family and he is a humble player, but what a talent.

“You put those elements together and you can have a night like tonight. He needs to keep doing that for us, and show he is not just the player of the future (but) he is the player now.”

More from

More SBI