'Cubo' Torres chats replicating Chivas USA success with Cabrera in Houston
HOUSTON, Texas -- Erick "Cubo" Torres' first career hat trick in the Houston Dynamo's 4-1 thrashing of the New York Red Bulls almost didn't happen. His teammate, Honduras international Boniek Garcia, was the one who gave him the free-kick chance.
"To tell you the truth, [Torres] had given me the ball," said Garcia after the win. "He told me to take the free kick. But when he came back, I saw that he had a lot of confidence, so I told him to take it. And the goal happened."
Torres is embarking on what could become his best season in Major League Soccer. His six goals in four matches highlight the ambition he has with the Dynamo. And there's been one ever-present figure in his rapid rise: coach Wilmer Cabrera, the man who has been able to get the best out of the 24-year-old forward in MLS and put him back in the league's spotlight.
"I feel very happy to be back with el Profe Wilmer Cabrera," said Torres in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC before the game against the Red Bulls. "He's someone who I worked with closely in my last year and a half at Chivas USA. He helped me to grow a lot and mature as a player. In Chivas USA, I found success with him.
"Before preseason started, [Cabrera] told me that he was going to be here [in Houston], that he had a lot of trust in me and that he was aware that my first years in Houston had not been great. [He said that] if I worked as hard as I did when I was with him in the past, he had no doubts that I was going to return to the spotlight.
"He had no doubts that we were going to succeed here and so far we've been doing excellent," Torres continued. "We're still working on improving, but el Profe has helped me a lot."
Cabrera is turning the Dynamo into a high-scoring machine and he believes it's due to the fact that he has five forwards at his disposal who can make a difference in MLS: Torres, Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, Andrew Wenger and Mauro Manotas. The coach wants to improve the team's possession game, but he doesn't want it to affect that dynamism that he's creating upfront, which has led to 11 goals in four matches.
"I've known Erick Torres since I had him at Chivas USA. He scored 15 goals in a team that didn't have much to offer," said Cabrera, whose countenance changed as he recalled his first head-coaching experience in MLS. "I knew that he could score goals because in a team that wasn't that good, he scored 15. In this team we have better players ... He has a better supporting cast. It was a matter of him preparing mentally for the challenge, boosting his confidence and connecting him with his teammates so he could do what he does best: score goals."
Torres also recalled his time with Chivas USA and emphasized that things are different for the coach-player duo with the Dynamo, where they are now a part of an organization that has won two MLS Cups.
"It's a totally different panorama. In Chivas USA, we knew that the team was going to disappear," said Torres. "We didn't have our own stadium, our own dressing rooms. It was a totally different environment.
"Now, I'm really happy here," he added. "We have a great organization. We have an executive board who are really devoted to the team. Look at the players they brought in the offseason. We have a team that's ready to be a league protagonist like in past years."
Quioto, Elis, Juan David Cabezas, A.J. DeLaGarza, Dylan Remick, Leonardo and Adolfo Machado were the Dynamo's notable pickups in the offseason, but there's one name that catches the eye in Torres' story: Vicente Sanchez, 37, who played in Liga MX for Toluca (2001-07) and Club America (2010-12) and is someone Torres grew up watching in Mexico's top flight.
"I admire [Sanchez] a lot. We know that he won league titles in Mexico, that he was once one of America's captains," said Torres. "With Toluca he achieved important things and to tell you the truth, I do see him like a dad. He supports me a lot. I try to learn a lot of things from him and I always ask him for advice."
After becoming the first Dynamo player to score a goal in four consecutive games, Torres' impressive form has no doubt caught the eye of Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio and his coaching staff. Osorio's last chat with the player took place during the 2016 Summer Olympics, where he was a part of El Tri's roster.
With Mexico participating in the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup this summer, Torres' opportunity to once again play for the senior national team could be set to return. "I'm really motivated, hopeful. I won't lie to you; I wake up every morning with the hope to once again represent my country."
But before he sees his name on a Mexico national team call-up Torres -- with Cabrera's guidance -- will hope to keep racking up goals and points as the Dynamo eye a return to the playoffs after missing out on the fun for the past three seasons.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.