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Jose Torres makes East Texas town proud
by Mike Woitalla, June 2nd, 2010 8:15PM

TAGS:  men's national team, mexico, world cup


[USA 23] On a Wednesday in May, the news arrived that Jose Francisco Torres of the East Texas town of Longview had made the U.S. World Cup team. On Thursday, when Margaret Wright arrived to teach at Foster Henry Middle School, half her pupils announced they were related to Jose.

"This is so huge here," said Wright with a chuckle. "Jose's going to find out he has relatives he never knew about."

Longview, a city of 77,000, lies 118 miles east of Dallas and 50 miles west of the Louisiana border. It has of late been celebrating athletes who have gone on to fame, including Torres’ classmate at Longview High School, Texas Rangers’ first baseman Chris Davis. Also out of Longview, offensive tackle Trent Williams was a 2010 first round draft pick by the Washington Redskins, where he joins Lobo alum wide receiver Malcom Kelly.

Nearly half those on Wikipedia's list of Longview’s “Notable People” – which includes actor Matthew McConaughey and union activist Karen Silkwood -- are football and baseball players.

Torres became the first soccer player and first Hispanic on the list.

"Jose is a celebrity in the Hispanic community here," says James Wright, head coach of Longview High’s soccer team, whose assistant is his wife, Magaret. "Being named to the World Cup team was a big relief to the Hispanic community. They really believed he deserved it but were worried till the last minute if he’d make it."

Torres was born in Longview in 1987 to Francisco “Pancho” Torres, an immigrant from Tampico, Mexico, and Lisa (née Mezzell).

Pancho had a chance to pursue a pro career in Mexico, but instead opted to move north of the border, where he met Lisa and introduced her to soccer.

"When we were dating," she says, "he told me he was taking me to futbol game. When we got there I said, 'Football in Spanish is different than our football!"'

Lisa liked the game. She started playing and coached Jose’s longtime youth team, Bad to da Bone. Jose later played for the Elite. By his sophomore season at Longview High, he smashed school scoring and assist records for the Lobos.

The Wrights say a crucial part of Torres’ development was playing in the Longview adult league known to non-Hispanics as "The Mexican League."

"That’s really where he developed his skills," says Margaret. "You’ve got teenagers playing with and against 35- and 40-year-olds. He really matured playing in that league."

Torres left high school before his junior season to join Mexican first division club Pachuca, where he made his first-team debut one month before his 19th birthday in 2006 and broke into the starting lineup in 2008.

It was the realization of a dream. Lisa remembers once when Jose was very young, watching Mexican soccer on TV, he pointed to the screen and said, "One day I'll play there."

"Jose was always behind the ball," she says. "He slept with his ball. He would watch Mexican soccer on television with his dad, and when he saw something he wanted to learn, he'd go in the backyard and work on it until he could do it. We had mini-goals in the yard. He also went to his father and his uncles' games."

Jose Torres was courted by the Mexican Olympic team, but opted to play for his native country, and debuted for Coach Bob Bradley’s team in 2008.

In Longview, James Wright says everyone knew Jose could go far. Wright played on the “Mexican League” team with Jose, Pancho and Jose’s uncle on the Zacatecas.

"You couldn't get the ball away from Jose,” says Wright. “He was truly amazing. I have one picture of him with me when we played in a tournament in Tyler. Now that all this is happening, you wonder, 'Why didn’t we take more pictures?'"

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 8:57 a.m.
    Great story. Good luck Jose. How many more Jose Torres's are out there?

  1. Hector Jordan
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 9 a.m.
    This is a great story,as a hispanic immigrant myself I'm so excited for Jose to be playing for the USA; he'll make our country proud. I just hope that the media doesn't put too much pressure on the kid by putting too much spotlight on him like the media did for Freddy Adu a few years back that brought him to almost obscurity.Jose just enjoy it ,you deserve it.

  1. Lloyd Elling
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.
    I have been a fan of Jose Torres from the momment he stepped onto the field with US National Team. He was a player that would make the US men's team better. He is the "CALM" to control the "HECTIC" style of play of the USA. He is our significant new player for this 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He gives the deserved attention to the "Hispanic Leagues" all over the USA. Next time, Alejandro Bedoya, will bring the same energy and talent with the ball we so desperately need. How many more like Jose and Alejandro have been missed by the US Soccer developmental programs? Now, we are beginning to see a soccer culture in the USA! Thank you, Jose Torres.

  1. Jorge Gonzalez
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 10:25 a.m.
    Yes me too like Lloyd. have been a fan of Jose Torres from the movement he was call to step onto the field with US National Team. I'm proud of you Jose Jr. I have been watching you playing. you'r talent shows a lot I'm from El Salvador but Cruz azul is the team I follow. since you make your 1st appearance for the US men's team I always watch Pachuca as well we Latinos been Longing to see you playing Regularly for the US MNT. Love to see you taking on WC Keep the good work we going to be checking on You wish you the Best .....

  1. Mario Carrillo
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.
    Jose is a player much like Claudio Reyna. Calm on the ball and sees the field. He slows the pace down and has solid technical and tactical abilities. Much needed since Claudio Reyna retired from USMNT. Jose is young and will get better as well as this could be a stage where he gets seen by lucrative clubs in europe. I am latino and have always wondered why hasn't the U.S. tapped into the latino market more than before since there are hidden gems everywhere. Too much politics I guess. Looking forward to the W.C. and USA play. USA wins 2 to 1 over England! YEA!!

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 12:18 p.m.
    In answer to Walt Pericciuoli's question, there are thousands of Joses out there. I am very glad and proud for him and wish him toda la suerte que merece! The saddest thing about all of this "non-identification" of players of his caliber is that there is a weird bias of many coaches, youth, amateur, scholastic, collegiate, semi and pro coaches against Latino players. This isn't fiction, but pure unadulterated fact. Hopefully this will change sometime soon and fast. And yes, go USA!

  1. mark swanson
    commented on: June 5, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.

  1. Jim Hougan
    commented on: June 5, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.
    The absence of Torres in the Australia match is sickening. As for Ricardo Clark, the only time I heard his name mentioned was when he pulled a hamstring. What's going on? Is Bradley insane?

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