18-Year Old Ricardo Pepi Quickly Becoming USA Soccer Hero
Five years ago, Ricardo Pepi was a young soccer prospect playing in his home town of El Paso. Now, he is quickly becoming a household name among American soccer fans after Pepi's stunning debut on the US Men's National Team last night. The 18-year old scored the game winning goal for the USMNT and he also had a pair of assists as the Americans came back to score four unanswered second half goals to defeat Honduras 4-1 in a World Cup Qualifier.
As you would expect, Pepi was named the Man of the Match and he is the buzz around the soccer world. He is also the second youngest player to appear on the USMNT in a World Cup qualifier, behind only Christian Pulisic. How did he make the meteoric rise to the top of American soccer?
Much credit could be given to Dallas FC, who has been grooming him since he was playing in El Paso. His family made the decision to move Ricardo to Dallas when he was just 13 year old, so he could continue his development in their youth academy. He continued his development, first playing for North Texas SC in USL's League One and then FC Dallas. This season, Pepi is leading his club in goals scored and he earned his first ever trip to the MLS All Star Game, where he scored the deciding goal in penalty kicks to defeat Mexico's All Stars. That goal got the attention of USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, who added Pepi to his roster on August 26th. That decision was a no-brainer since the 18-year old with dual citizenship could have also played for Mexico in World Cup qualifying.
After a pair of disappointing draws in their earlier World Cup qualifying matches, the US Men's National Team suddenly has new life again and it is primarily due to Ricardo Pepi. They currently have five points, which puts them in a tie for second in their group with Canada and Panama, and they trail Mexico by two points. It is almost a guarantee that Berhalter will have his teenage striker in the starting lineup on October 7th when the USMNT plays in Austin against Jamaica. Three days later, they play at Panama before heading to Columbus for their third match in less than a week against Costa Rica on the 13th.