Rising star Torres enjoying the limelight
It is easy for Chivas Guadalajara followers to forget that striker Erick "Cubo" Torres is just 21 years old.
Rushed into a Chivas debut at just 17, he was quickly -- and unfairly -- dubbed the "new Chicharito," as the scramble for Javier Hernandez's successor at the club began after he left for Manchester United in the summer of 2010.
The fact Chicharito was also hyped after debuting with Chivas when he was 18, then fell down the pecking order rapidly and almost quit the game entirely before succeeding should've been a warning for the way Torres was handled.
"Cubo" was given a regular starting spot for Chivas aged 18, netted six goals in the Clausura 2011, including key ones against rivals America and Atlas. But by late 2012, Torres had lost form and was benched when the club's philosophy gradually started to shift away from a team predominantly made up of youth products to one with more experienced, outside faces.
"You could say that Chivas de Guadalajara has a lot of demands, has a lot of spotlight on it and I debuted when Javier Hernandez had just left," Torres told ESPNFC in a telephone interview. "I was 17 and had responsibility."
The move away from Guadalajara to Chivas USA in July 2013 was a blessing; a welcome change of scenery and a chance to develop away from the club he had grown at for almost 10 years. Most importantly, it offered regular playing time, something that had dried up in Guadalajara.
The confirmation of what Torres has achieved and become in the year since he headed to the United States is on Wednesday, when he suits up for MLS All-Stars in Portland against Bayern Munich. "Cubo" is the second youngest player in the squad behind DeAndre Yedlin, is one of only four players under 25 and one of three from Latin America.
And Torres is there on merit, even if his selection was one of commissioner Don Garber's two free picks.
Coverage from MLS All-Star 2014:
- Parker: Henry should be cherished
- McIntyre: Merits of the All-Star Game format
- Davis: 2014 MLS midseason awards
- Carlisle: MLS Power Rankings: Week 21
- McIntyre: Dempsey discusses U.S. future
- Marshall: Torres enjoying the limelight
- Carlisle: MLS midseason report cards
- Parker: Cynics wrong about All-Star Game
- McIntyre: Familiarity gives All-Stars the edge
In 2014, Torres has scored 14 goals in 21 games (his parent club have netted only 15 in 19 Liga MX matches as a team), the highlight of which was a stunningly executed volley against Real Salt Lake in June. And he is obviously delighted with being chosen for the All-Star team.
"It's something that excites me a lot," said Torres, who believes the All-Stars can defeat Bayern Munich. "It's very important for me and motivates me to keep working...It's also a chance to represent Chivas USA, my teammates, coaches and staff."
There is no way around the fact Guadalajara is crying out for a player like Torres at present, not least because of the goals.
"Of course, one day I'd like to achieve important things in Guadalajara," he said, adding he's in regular contact with current Chivas players like Kristian Alvarez, Carlos Fierro and Patricio Araujo. "I'm immensely grateful for what the institution has given me."
From throwing the hand signal of Chivas' Irreverente barra after scoring against neighbors Atlas in 2011, to his demeanor in staying behind to sign autographs for fans, the robot dance, the working-class Guadalajara accent when he speaks Spanish, his joie de vivre for being on the pitch is obvious. Chivas should be getting back a groomed 22-year-old striker with the maturity to lead Guadalajara's forward line for next season.
Instead, Chivas USA (or the franchise it becomes) retains the option to buy Torres after the 2014 MLS season finishes, the club confirmed to ESPNFC, and it would appear irrational for the new owners not to pick it up, especially with the player in the race for MLS' highest goal scorer award.
Aside from the goals, though, "Cubo" will no doubt be a highly desirable player in the Latino market in Southern California for any prospective owners and will be even more so when his English improves (he promised the next time we speak would be in English). Torres is already making history north of the border as the highest Mexican goal scorer ever in MLS. And if "Cubo" does remain in MLS beyond 2014 -- he says no decision has yet been made -- it'll be in the knowledge that he's in a league that he firmly believes is going in the right direction and in which he sounds like he'd be comfortable staying.
"I'll tell you with my eyes closed that in a not too distant future, MLS will surpass not just various leagues that are a little above, but also the big leagues," Torres said. "It will compete with European leagues."
More physical and with less time on the ball than in Mexico, Torres says he has to think quicker in MLS to outsmart bigger opponents, something that has improved his game. The striker wants to continue his success this season before deciding his future and is open in stating that the Mexican national team -- which has the Pan-American Games, Olympics, Gold Cup and two Copa Americas coming up in the next two years -- is constantly on his mind.
"Every day I get up with the dream that one day my name will appear in a national team call-up," said Torres, who has been in contact with the Mexican federation.
At this rate, it seems impossible that the youngster will not be given a look-in, at least for Raul "el Potro" Gutierrez's Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic squad. The loser from the situation right now looks set to be Chivas. Not making sure they had a watertight agreement to retain local Guadalajara native Torres -- who has pretensions of one day playing in Europe -- after his loan spell with Chivas USA could yet turn out to be one of the ownership's more sizable own goals of recent times.
Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has written about Mexican football ever since. Find him on Twitter @MexicoWorldCup.