Ricardo Pepi Becomes Youngest Player in MLS History to Score Hat Trick

Hat’s off to Ricardo Pepi

The 18-year-old Latino soccer player has become the youngest player in Major League Soccer history to score a hat trick, as Pepi led FC Dallas to a 5-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday evening.

Ricardo Pepi

Pepi, who is 18 years, 197 days of age, increased his season goal total to a team-high eight with his first career hat trick. The El Paso, Texas, native is in his third season with the team.

FC Dallas emphatically snapped a three-match losing streak, all of which came on the road. FCD is a different team at home — it is now unbeaten in 17 straight home matches (with nine wins and eight draws), the longest active regular-season home unbeaten run in MLS.

Pepi put FC Dallas on the board in the 27th minute when he finished off a pass from Andres Ricaurte that bounced off Galaxy defender Daniel Steres. Pepi’s kick from the center of the box was placed in the right corner past Los Angeles goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.

Pepi added his second goal in the 44th minute, making short work of a corner kick from Jesus Ferreira that Pepi headed off the back LA defender Derrick Williams. The rebound landed at Pepi’s feet at a severe angle to the goal, but the teen was up to the task.

The third goal came in the 50th minute after FCD midfielder Szabolcs Schon carried the ball deep into the box and fought off two Los Angeles defenders before passing to Pepi in front of the goal. Pepi moved the ball to his right foot and sent a low shot into the left corner of the net to all but end the Galaxy’s chances.

Jimmy Maurer made three saves to earn his second shutout of the season and the 13th of his six-year MLS career.

Jader Obrian added FCD’s fourth goal in 88th minute to cap the scoring.

The Galaxy are 0-2-1 over their past three matches, their longest stretch of the season without a victory.

It was Los Angeles’ fifth consecutive match without injured leading scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez as well as midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Efrain Alvarez, both of whom are with the Mexican team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Jesus Ferreira Leads United States U-23 National Team to Critical Win Over Costa Rica

Jesus Ferreira is leading the American futbol pack…

The 20-year-old Colombian soccer player led the United States U-23 national team to a critical victory in its bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, helping them defeat Costa Rica 1-0 in its opening match of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Guadalajara.

Jesus Ferreira

Ferreira, an attacker for FC Dallas, scored the game’s only goal in the 35th minute, and the U.S. defense made it stand up, with keeper David Ochoa making a total of eight saves in a Man-of-the-Match performance.

With Mexico and the Dominican Republic also in Group A, the victory puts the U.S. in excellent position to be one of the two teams to advance and progress to the winner-take-all semifinal.

The U.S. struggled to maintain possession as the game went on amid difficult conditions at Estadio Jalisco that included game-time temperatures approaching 90 degrees as well as altitude of over 5,000 feet. Given that the Major League Soccer season has yet to start while the Costa Rican league is in the middle of its own, the fact that Los Ticos had the better of play wasn’t that surprising.

But the U.S. made the plays that mattered, and rode the saves of Ochoa to claim all three points.

“It wasn’t great,” said U.S. manager Jason Kreis about his team’s attempts to take care of the ball. “It was an important result for us but I would say that we would have hoped to have gotten that result in a little bit of a better fashion.

“I think we would have hoped that we could have been better on the ball and make better decisions and maintain the tempo of the game better. But unfortunately, part of guys not playing matches is that it’s not just about fitness, it’s also about their touch on the ball.

“And so I felt that the majority of what Costa Rica did to hurt us was in transition, when we gave the ball away very cheaply.”

Both teams showed nerves in the early going. Ferreira robbed Costa Rica defender Fernan Faerron in the second minute, advanced on goal unimpeded, but could only hit the post with the shot.

Ochoa was then twice called on to deliver two big saves, smothering Adrian Martinez‘s shot in the seventh minute, and then another close-range Martinez effort 10 minutes later following a giveaway from U.S. defender Mauricio Pineda.

Intent on getting an equalizer, Costa Rica started the second half with the greater level of intensity. The U.S. didn’t help itself with some giveaways deep in its own half, but Ochoa was on hand again, diving to his right to deny Randall Leal‘s effort in the 48th minute and then saving from Luis Diaz three minutes later.