Schellas Hyndman, then coach at SMU, was teaching a soccer course in Brazil five years ago when he first saw Colombian midfielder David Ferreira in action on the training field.
"The first thing that went through my mind was why would Brazil, of all countries, go to Colombia to find a playmaker," the FC Dallas coach recalled.
"Well it didn't take long to recognize why he was so important for the Atletico Paranaense team. So when I became the coach (of FC Dallas in 2008), that was the first player I went after."
The payoff has been huge to both men.
Hyndman, Ferreira and FC Dallas are one win from the MLS championship. And the Colombian playmaker, in his second MLS season, was rewarded with the Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player Award on Friday.
Just five foot five and 152 pounds, Ferreira is full of guile and creativity. He is also tough.
Nicknamed the Little Bull, he was the most fouled player in MLS this season. But he played every minute of all 30 games except for one, when Hyndman brought him out a minute early so the crowd could honour him with applause.
The 31-year-old, able to score himself or carve open defences for teammates to profit, finished with eight goals and 13 assists.
He beat out Edson Buddle of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes in voting by players, coaches, GMs and media.
Ferreira, whose first name is pronounced Davide, earned 20 per cent of the votes, while Buddle got 18.3 per cent and Wondolowski 14.6 per cent. Los Angeles star Landon Donovan, last year's winner, was fourth with 11.9 per cent.
Dallas plays Ferreira in a 4-1-4-1 formation, deploying him as an attacking midfielder while giving him "the freedom to "be a difference-maker."
"Every team he's been involved with has found a way to find success," Hyndman said of Ferreira, who is in search of his seventh career championship this weekend.
Ferreira, a native of Santa Marta who has won 35 caps for his country, grew up idolizing former Colombia star Carlos Valderrama.
"I don't know if there are similarities but I always loved to watch him be so peaceful when he would make those passes," he said through an interpreter.
Ferreira says "tranquility in the moment" is the secret to his scoring success.
His teammates have nothing but praise for the diminutive midfielder.
"He's been unbelievable for us," said Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez, praising Ferreira's work rate and unselfishness in helping with defensive duties.
"More than anything, he's a great person. A great guy, a great teammate. He has MVP written all over him."
Said goalie Kevin Hartman: "He's a hard-working, honest leader on our team. Somebody that can link the field from the defence to the offence and from side to side. He's the guy that you give the ball to, no matter if he has a man on his back or not, we have that much confidence in him."
"I know he frustrates the opposition," Hartman added. "In practice, I know the guys just kind of quit trying to take the ball from him because it's pretty difficult."
Said Hyndman: "Every day (in practice) is like a game for him."
The highest paid player on FC Dallas, which does not have a big-ticket designated player, Ferreira is a bargain at US$300,000 this season.
"For me, he's DP status," said teammate Atiba Harris. "He's just an amazing soccer player."
Ferreira is currently on loan to FC Dallas but Hyndman says the team hopes to buy his contract outright from Paranaense and keep him "for many more years to come."
Ferreira says he wants to stay. "I'm very happy in Dallas. They've treated me very well."
Coach and player communicate in Portuguese and Hyndman has nothing but good things to say.
"The one area that surpasses everything in a professional athlete is character," said Hyndman. "Talent can only take you so far, character can keep you there. And he exemplifies that."
Count Colorado coach Gary Smith, whose Rapids face Dallas on Sunday at BMO Field, among the impressed.
When asked about the defensive challenges the Colombian presents, he paused and then replied: "Quite a number."
"He's a very good player. He is, however, just one player. The moment he turns into two, we have an even bigger problem," he said to laughter. "But he's very talented, he's very confident and the role that he plays he's very elusive."
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