Erick Torres eyes successful 2016 with Houston Dynamo and Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- Erick "Cubo" Torres knows that 2016 has to be an important year in his career. After completing a full preseason with the Houston Dynamo under Owen Coyle's supervision, Torres is ready to win the right to be considered one of the best players in MLS and show Mexico Under-23 head coach Raul "Potro" Gutierrez that he's more than ready to be part of the team that will take part in the 2016 Olympic Games.
Torres' first six months wearing orange didn't stand out. In 11 appearances, he didn't score a goal and took just six shots on goal. A single assist was the lone highlight, nevertheless, the Dynamo is supporting Torres, and the Mexican forward is grateful for it.
"With the new owners, I talk often. I have communication with Oscar de la Hoya and Gabriel Brener. They're Mexican, so I can communicate well with them.
"I'm happy to have the support from the people at the top; it gives me confidence. Also, the directors and coaching staff's support gives me confidence. I just have to do my bit by working hard, so I can have playing during the season," Torres told ESPN FC via phone.
Last season, while Torres was struggling on the pitch after arriving from Chivas in July and was still getting used to his new teammates and new surroundings in Houston, Coyle was one of his main supporters. "My concern with a striker is if you're not getting chances because that means your runs are all wrong. Erick Torres will always find the right positions to score goals. I have no concerns, I just need to get him match sharp," said Coyle after a 2-0 win over Vancouver on Aug. 29.
Getting match sharp has been the main priority for Torres in the few last months. He is aware that if he has a great year for the Dynamo, Coyle, who previously managed Burnley, Bolton and Wigan, could potentially recommend him to teams in England.
"It's true that playing in Europe is one of my dreams. At the end I believe that your best letter of recommendation is what you do on the pitch, how you take yourself and how you play during the 90 minutes each weekend," Torres said. "But it's important that someone like Owen Coyle, a former national team player who had an exceptional career in Europe and scored close to 300 goals, could recommend me to a European team. All the details count."
Starting the 2016 MLS season on the right foot will allow Torres to claim one of those places in the Under-23 team that will represent Mexico in the Olympics. Even though Torres was part of the team that finished as champions in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, he knows he still has to earn his ticket to Rio.
"I want to get into a frame of mind that I want to be there [in Rio], that I want to be in Raul Gutierrez's final list, and if that's the case, I want to go to Brazil to repeat the gold medal and show a lot of heart, character, and pride, representing Mexico as best as I can," he said.
In the next months there will be plenty of speculation about which three Mexico national team players older than 23 will join the Olympic squad. The players, too, are curious. "We really didn't talk about it [with Gutierrez], but of course inside the team we speculate, 'Who could help us? Who's interested?' We know that players like Chicharito, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera are interested. They have talked to Gutierrez to tell him that they're willing to help. Hector Moreno is another one.
"Obviously, Gutierrez will let us now, and he has been very clear about this topic. He has told us that if there's no need to call anybody up and we win our place on the field, he won't call anybody up," Torres paused. "I think the possibility of getting reinforced is important, but as El Profe says, if he knows that we're doing well, well, that's how it's going to be. In the end, the coaching staff will decide."
When the 2016 MLS season gets underway, Torres will embark on what will be his second full MLS season in his career. The 23-year-old native from Guadalajara is the prime example of a young Mexican footballer who has been able to succeed in the U.S. "Playing here [in the U.S.] has allowed me to notice that things here are not the same as in my country. Definitely there are things that I wished Liga MX could copy MLS, obviously the good ones.
"Let me give you an example: In the U.S. I notice that all the teams are always on time with pay. You never hear a player complaining about not getting paid on time. They're always on time, which is not always the case in Mexico, when all of sudden there are teams that don't pay its players on time. And for the most part, the players are worried because they can't take food to their homes.
"Another aspect that stands out is the organization. I'm not saying that in Mexico there's no organization, however in the U.S. all the stadiums offer great attention to disabled people. The security in the stadiums is always on point and makes you feel good. Sometimes in Mexico you see those instances that can put in danger the well-being of the fans or even your family members. Instances like that prevent you from totally focusing on the game. In the end, they are both different leagues, and I'm a 100 percent sure that Liga MX is trying to improve each day."
Recently in Liga MX club owners have looked abroad to add more talent into their squads, limiting playing time for Mexican footballers between the ages of 20 and 24. Torres' move to MLS at a young age could well be paving the way for more young Mexican players to head to MLS in search of minutes.
"Right now players who are between 20 and 23, like me, need to be having playing time in order to build a solid career and have a lot of experience. Without a doubt, I do think [MLS] is a good option for many young Mexican footballers, especially quality players like Jonathan Espericueta and Antonio "Pollo" Briseno. There are a lot of teammates in the U-23 team who have come up to me and shown me their interest of coming to MLS. You'll see that in no time there'll be more young, talented Mexican footballers heading to the U.S."
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.