North Texas SC’s Ricardo Pepi shares his experience on playing the USMNT U-17’s.
Ricardo Pepi has returned from playing with the USMNT U-17’s and he had quite the tournament. Pepi and the United States made it to the final where they were defeated by Mexico, 2-1 in extra time. The USMNT U-17 have qualified for the 2019 U-17 World Cup which will be held in Brazil at a later confirmed date. Pepi finished the tournament having scored 3 goals and played in 6 matches.
North Texas SC head coach, Eric Quill had praise for his younger striker.
“It’s great. I think that anytime that you get to play for your country, it is an honor and he’s definitely shown the love of doing that. He had a great tournament and he’s disappointed that they didn’t beat Mexico, I’m sure. Pepi needs those opportunities and you don’t pass those up. He’s a focal point of the U-17’s and it’s not like he’s a side guy filling up the roster. It’s an honor and something you don’t pass up.”
Pepi was happy about how the tournament went as he stated, “It was a great experience to play with the U-17’s. It was a great tournament but unfortunately, in the finals, we lost it.”
Pepi truly was a focal point for the USMNT U-17’s as playing in 6 of the 7 possible games is quite remarkable for a striker in a team with quality attacking players. He additionally was the fourth highest goal-scorer on the United States team. He served as the target forward of the attack, occupied the opposition backline, and off course, scored goals.
“It felt amazing. I think that I earned it. I worked my butt off to be able to start and those three goals gave me a lot of confidence.”
— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) May 14, 2019
Ricardo Pepi is eligible to play for both the United States and Mexico and has spent time playing with both national teams. Pepi has recently spent time playing with the United States. When asked what it was like playing against Mexico in the final.
He shared, “It didn’t feel weird. I was defending the US. They (US) have given me better opportunities, so I gave my all for the US while playing with them. I think it gave me a little more motivation playing against Mexico in the final.”
For some Mexican American soccer players, it can be a challenge for some players when it comes to deciding which country to play for. FC Dallas has had its own share of dual-eligible players in Victor Ulloa, Alejandro Zendejas, and Jesse Gonzalez (who has made his one-time switch to play for the United States). Pepi explained, “It’s a decision that I made, and my family supports me. Whatever national team I go to, they will always be there for me.”
As Ricardo Pepi approaches the 6-month mark since signing for North Texas SC, these 6 months have contained lots of action for the 16-year-old. When asked about how the transition has been from going to the academy to playing for North Texas SC to playing with the youth national team, Pepi appeared unfazed by the quickness of the events.
He shared, “The style for all three teams is basically the same. My role is the same: [put] pressure and score goals, obviously. Transitioning into North Texas was a little harder. Obviously, they are bigger and they’re stronger. It took me a little bit to get used to it. Now that I am used to it, it has gotten better. With the national team, I feel like the level here in North Texas and the level there (youth national team) are kinda similar so it’s not that big of a transition.”
North Texas SC and FC Dallas have a really special player in Ricardo Pepi. A characteristic of Pepi that really stands out is his complete love and desire to play soccer. It’s evident when you talk with him and is evident on the field.
The young-professional wants to continue to be the best player that he can be, and he surely will continue being a great player for North Texas SC, FC Dallas if the opportunity comes knocking, and for any other team that obtains Pepi’s services.
Featured Image: MARCA Claro