When MLS embarked upon its ill-fated Chivas USA experiment a decade ago, it had the case of Erick Torres in mind.
Torres fell out of favor with Chivas Guadalajara after bursting onto the scene and drawing comparisons to Javier Hernández with his clever work in the final third. The powers in Guadalajara shipped him to southern California last year after rendering him surplus to requirements. He settled in MLS quickly and took the league by storm.
By just about every account, Torres is the crossover star the club and the league always craved. He is proud of his Mexican roots, but he plies his trade in MLS. He excels on the field and projects personality and youthful vibrancy off of it.
Torres’ success is now punctuated by his surprising inclusion in the Mexican national team setup for a pair of friendlies against Chile (Sept. 6 in Santa Clara, Calif.) and Bolivia (Sept. 9 in Commerce City, Colo.).
Make no mistake: Torres would not have earned his place in Miguel Herrera’s selection without his time in MLS. The 21-year-old forward entered MLS as a player bereft of first-team opportunities in Liga MX and short of confidence after a difficult spell. Chivas USA cultivated his confidence once again and restored his faith in his natural predatory instincts inside the penalty area.
Torres cited his move to MLS as one of the driving factors in his national team inclusion during a conference call with reporters on Friday. He noted that he may not have made his way into the Mexico without the boost and the focus provided by his time in MLS.
It speaks volumes that MLS has reached the point where a player in Torres’ form can earn his way into the Mexican national team setup. The prospect of inviting an American-based player into fold still rankles in some quarters, but Torres’ impressive production (14 goals in 23 matches this season) spoke louder than its point of origin for a side in need of more options inside the final third.
There are plenty of reasons why Chivas USA floundered over the years, but its last throes — assuming MLS can find a way to sell and rebrand the franchise to avoid another lost year in 2015 – at least provided one tangible example of what might have been in different circumstances.
Torres won’t save Chivas USA or even necessarily stay in MLS for the long term. He dreams of Europe and Liga MX, though MLS holds a contractual option to acquire him on a permanent deal. But his presence now highlights the potential lost and underscores the sort of opportunity squandered along the way.
Five Points — Week 25
1. Portland, Seattle renew hostilities at Providence Park: Both coaches made alterations in midweek to account for this high-profile clash on Sunday. It proved a worthwhile exercise with both teams searching for the extra bit of energy ahead of a fraught clash. Neither side can afford to give with Sounders FC in wobbly form as of late and the Timbers still scrapping for a playoff berth.
The onus will fall on Portland to keep its shape tight and force the play wide to cope with the threat posed by the visitors. If the Timbers can managed to hold their line, then they can find opportunities to stretch the game a bit and test the Sounders FC defense with quick work on the break.
2. Sporting Kansas City hosts D.C. United in top-of-the-table clash: United rested all of its available starters in the 1-0 victory over Waterhouse FC to keep them fresh for the trip to Sporting Park. The inclusion of those veteran campaigners will help D.C. cope with Sporting’s pressure, but the visitors will find their shape stressed nevertheless. United must find a way to limit the influence of Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi between the lines in order to secure the victory required to erase the existing two-point gap between the sides.
3. How will Mauro Rosales impact the Whitecaps?: Vancouver shipped Nigel Reo-Coker to Chivas USA on Thursday to acquire the former Seattle midfielder for the stretch run. Rosales isn’t the center forward the Whitecaps crave, but he does supply another creative outlet from his usual berth on the right wing. Whitecaps boss Carl Robinson isn’t likely to start Rosales against LA Galaxy on Saturday night, but he must find a way to accommodate him moving forward to ensure this move reaps the expected dividends.
4. New York prepares to make its statement: The reigning Supporters’ Shield winners have lurched through much of this season, but they must now take care of business regularly to succeed on two fronts. The visit from Montréal on Saturday provides the ideal opportunity for the Red Bulls to round into form ahead of the home stretch (including seven of the final 11 MLS matches in Harrison), but the home side must find a way to temper Ignacio Piatti’s influence in central midfield to secure the necessary three points.
5. Is Robert Earnshaw ready to haunt his former side? Chicago boss Frank Yallop hopes to include former Reds striker Earnshaw in his squad to face TFC at Toyota Park on Saturday. Earnshaw isn’t quite what the Fire need right now with Quincy Amarikwa and Mike Magee in the fold, but he buzzes around earnestly and polishes off chances presented to him. He will hope to meet his usual standards and provide the Reds with a reminder of what they are missing. TFC will probably survive somehow anyways with Jermain Defoe finally poised to return from injury to bolster the cause.