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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

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 By Tom Marshall

MLS holds sway in decision on the future of Erick 'Cubo' Torres

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Erick "Cubo" Torres' agent is in for a busy couple of months.

The striker netted the winner for Mexico against Panama on Sunday, scoring his first goal at international level in the 1-0 victory and claiming the plaudits and headlines in the Mexican press the morning after.

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"I'm very happy with my first goal with the national team," said Torres after the game on Sunday, without a hint of emotion on his face. "But I'll keep working and hope to score many more goals for my country."

Chivas Guadalajara still owns him and he is on loan at Chivas USA until the end of the current MLS season, but MLS confirmed to ESPN FC on Tuesday that the league retains an option to buy at the end of this season.

With the MLS outfit's future up in the air, according to reports, it appears to leave the question of Torres' future frustratingly complicated, although MLS also said that "the appropriate mechanism would be used to assign the player to a club" if Chivas USA disappeared and the buy-out clause was activated.

"I don't know what will happen with my future," Torres admitted. "I'll sit down in a few months with the right people to decide what is best for me and I'll decide whatever is best."

Erick Torres celebrates a late goal vs. Panama that gave Mexico a 1-0 friendly win last Sunday night.

It'll surely be earlier than a "few months" and it would appear irrational if negotiations weren't already underway.

Recently appointed Chivas Guadalajara president Nestor de la Torre has already spoken to Torres -- according to quotes published on Tuesday in Cancha -- and admitted that he would have to talk to the relevant people in MLS to find out their intentions and whether they will activate the clause. He didn't close the door on a return.

Torres has consistently said he is happy with life in the United States and in MLS, but he's a Chivas fan and the pull back to Mexico will be huge, with the club also desperate for a striker who can put the ball regularly in the back of the net. Chivas is battling relegation and have failed to score in six of its past nine matches.

Aside from on the field, Torres is popular with the fan base and media in Guadalajara at a time when the institution is in debt with locals, who are in need of players that they can relate to and get behind.

"He has that hunger that a lot of the players that are in the team at the moment lack, plus he's in form," said Edith Hernandez, a law student from Guadalajara and a life-long Chivas fan, who remembered a game in 2013 against local rival Atlas when Torres continued on the field despite having dislocated his elbow.

Erick Torres has been compared to Chicharito and the two have followed similar paths in the Chivas youth system on their way to professional careers.

Interest from Europe shouldn't be discounted, either, with Torres' profile soaring after scoring 15 goals in 27 appearances this season for a struggling side, coupled with his new status as a Mexican international who is likely to feature in either the Gold Cup or Copa America next summer and then as the focal point of El Tri's attack at the 2016 Olympics after that.

The future is bright and the $152,004 guaranteed compensation Torres receives per year at Chivas USA -- where he is the sixth highest earner at present -- is likely to be something his agent will be looking to improve if Torres does stay in MLS. The stakes have been raised now he is a full international for a country that holds significant sway in soccer marketing in the United States.

The Torres-Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez comparisons may be lazy and obvious, but they are somehow unavoidable, with both being strikers from Guadalajara, coming out of Chivas' youth system and celebrating goals in ways that bring smiles to faces.

"El Cubo" Torres was burdened with expectation after debuting aged 17 and picking up the "new Chicharito" label.

Like Hernandez, Torres is breaking out in his 22nd year after having gone through difficult times.

"Yes, he congratulated me," stated "Cubo," talking about his winning goal. "He's an incredible human being. I was able to talk to him before and after the game."

An important couple of months await, but in the end, MLS will have first refusal on Torres' future. It's difficult to see the league declining that buy-out clause, much to the chagrin of Chivas fans in Guadalajara.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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