Chattanooga FC's Like Ferreira works out during a recent practice.
photo by Joseph Dycus
Flair isn’t something common in the various tiers of the American game. Or perhaps, more accurately, I should say effectively-used flair is something of a unicorn. Stepovers turn into lost dribbles, and feints or hesitations fizzle out when the dribbler loses the ball. And so among many of his NISA brethren, Luke Ferreira’s skillset is a rarity.
The 27 year-old has every move in the book and a few more that have yet to be authored.
He is nominally a striker, but has license to float around wherever he is needed. Ferreira can get wherever he is required too, because his handle is the epitome of “having the ball on a string.”
“Growing up, it was definitely (about trying to copy) Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (R9), Kaka and all those guys,” the man with Brazilian heritage says of the players he grew up emulating. “I’ve tried to master the style of Neymar too. So all the Brazilian greats, I want to grab a piece of everybody.”
In the back half of the 2010s, Ferreira’s career appeared to be on the ascent. He graduated from Stetson in 2016 and then spent a year with Florida-based teams before embarking on a two-year stint in Norway’s Eliteserien, the top football league in the country. Ferreira went back to the USA to play with the USL championship Colorado Springs Swtichbacks club in 2020 and was a contributor.
“The difference between Chattanooga and Norway, man, it’s a huge difference,” Ferreira says. “Norway is a beautiful country and has some very intelligent people, but I like being home in the US, and Chattanooga is nice. I love being here.”
Then things were put on hold. A slew of injuries and maladies killed Ferreira’s 2021 season, and he remained unsigned by any team. He says he picked up injuries “in odd parts of the preseason or offseason” and had to train alone to stay in shape. Once he joined Chattanooga FC in 2022, Ferreira says it took him a while to get in game shape.
“It definitely took a couple of weeks. Training by yourself and doing it alone, it definitely affects your ability,” Ferreira says. “Training in a group setting affects your level as well. I needed to come in and play with the guys for a few weeks to get in a groove and get that quality back.”
Ferreira also has an even greater appreciation for being part of a team after his lonely 2021. While supporters and onlookers revel in the spectacular tricks and shots and tackles on the pitch, the quieter and unseen side is what the attacker missed the most.
“I love playing the game, and I also love the relationships you build with the coaching staff and team,” Ferreira says. “Those are the memories you’ll take with you for the rest of your life. I’ll probably remember those more than I remember the things on the field.”
That might be an understatement by Luke, because it’s hard to forget some of the moves he pulls off in competitive matches. One of those was a slick assist to Taylor Gray a few weeks ago that made the rounds on NISA social media and left spectators applauding. Wherever CFC needs a rejuvenated Ferreira to play, he can play there with deft skill.
“We brought him in to score goals, but he’s also a hybrid, because he’s not a nine, he’s not a winger,” coach Rod Underwood says. “Luke’s a nine, 10, or seven-and-a-half, 10-and-a-half. He’s a player we like in our team.”
And as alluded to earlier, Ferreira brings a creative element to CFC’s attack that was nonexistent last season (outside of the occasional James Kasak dribbling exhibition on the wing). But those fancy moves bely a player who is clinical when he needs to be, says his teammate.
“Luke is great, and he gives us a little bit of that flair in our game,” fullback Travis Ward says. “He makes the game fun and brings out all the tricks and flicks. But he’s also super-composed in the final third and is a great attacker for us.”
Chattanooga has scored 11 goals in their last three games, all wins. With Ferreira rounding back into his Eliteserien form of a few years ago, the team has looked like the class of NISA over the last month. Jewelry at the end of the year is a possibility and a goal, but for Ferreira, being on a team is great in and of itself too.
“I came here to win a championship, and this is definitely a championship-level team,” he says. “And I’m just happy to be back and playing.”
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