They call him "El Torito," the Little Bull, and not because he goes into a fit of rage whenever he sees red.
FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira, all five-foot-five and 153 pounds of him, was named Major League Soccer's MVP of the 2010 regular season on Friday, capping off what was a bullish campaign for the Colombian.
Ferreira beat out Los Angeles Galaxy forward Edson Buddle and the San Jose Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski, the league's top scorer, to claim the award. It was the first of two honours for Ferreira this week (on Tuesday he was named to the league's end-of-season all-star team) but it might not be the last: Dallas plays the Colorado Rapids in Sunday's MLS Cup final at Toronto's BMO Field.
Ferreira, 31, followed up a solid 2009 season in MLS with a sensational 2010 campaign in which he dazzled opponents with his playmaking skills and vision on the field, firmly establishing himself as one of the league's most creative players.
The Colombian's skill made him a marked man, as he was the league's most-fouled player. Despite the abuse, Ferreira ranked second in MLS in assists with 13 (three behind leader Landon Donovan). He also scored eight goals in 30 games as Dallas finished fourth overall in MLS with a 12-4-14 record and made the post-season for the first time since 2007.
A thinking-man's midfielder with guile and graft to spare, Ferreira told reporters Friday that "tranquility in the moment" was the secret to his scoring success this season.
FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said Ferreira's professionalism, both on and off the field, helped him dominate games.
"If you look at his stature, he's not a very big man but he's completely solid. He's quick, he fights ... he trains extremely hard and every training session is like a game for him," said Hyndman. "Talent can only take you so far; character can keep you there. He exemplifies that."
Hyndman later added: "He's a quick thinker. He thinks ahead of the game.... He's hard to knock off the ball."
Ferreira joined Dallas before the 2009 season on a loan deal from Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense. His loan spell with Dallas ends on Dec. 31, but Hyndman is confident the MLS club can buy him out of his Paranaense contract and sign him to a multi-year deal.
"I want to stay. I'm very happy at Dallas and the city. They treat me very well and I'd like to stay here," Ferreira said through a translator.
Hyndman spotted Ferreira while teaching a soccer course in Brazil five years ago when he was still coaching at Southern Methodist University.
"It didn't take long to recognize why he was so important for the Atletico Paranaense team. So when I became coach (of FC Dallas in 2008), that was the first player I went after," Hyndman said.
Ferreira's winning of the league's MVP award continues a tradition of major Latin American influence in MLS that dates back to the league's first season in 1996.
Ferreira is the ninth player from Latin America to win the league's MVP honour, joining his idol Carlos Valderrama (Colombia, 1996), Marco Etcheverry (Bolivia, 1998), Alex Pineda Chacon (Honduras, 2001), Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala, 2002), Amado Guevara (Honduras, 2004), Christian Gomez (Argentina, 2006), Luciano Emilio (Brazil, 2007) and Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Argentina, 2008).
"I don't know if there are similarities but I always loved to watch [Valderrama] be so peaceful when he would make those passes," Ferreira said.
Hyndman believes Ferreira and other Latin American players have done so well in MLS over the years because of the economic hardships they endured growing up in their native countries.
"I think Latin American players find life a little bit harder. Life there may not be as easy there as it is [in North America], so they are ingrained to become professionals at a very young age," Hyndman explained.
"They take everything so seriously because it's their livelihood and it's a matter of 'how long can I last,' and 'how can I take care of my children and my family, and give them the life that I didn't have?' That inspires some players."