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Stronger, broader game boosts Torres' value
by Ridge Mahoney, June 3rd, 2010 2:10AM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup

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[USA 23] Remember that celebratory dance pairing up Clint Dempsey and Jose Francisco Torres after Dempsey scored the winning goal against Turkey in a 2-1 win Saturday in Philadelphia? As it turns out, there's a closer connection between them than Texas roots, a penchant for flair, and post-goal dance moves.

Every day in South Africa, a few U.S. players are trotted out for press conferences, and Wednesday Torres took a place at the table between Jonathan Spector and DaMarcus Beasley. The synergy injected by Torres and several other subs enabled the USA to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Turkey and pull out a win in its final send-off match before leaving for South Africa.

When asked about Dempsey, Torres replied, “Well, he’s a bit older than me. He played against an uncle that I have back in Texas, they played against each other in high school. I look up to him a lot, he’s a great player and he’s done a lot in the past few years.”

Longview, Texas, where Torres grew up, is just 65 miles north of Dempsey’s home town, Nacogdoches.

“I’ve talked to him about this being my first World Cup and ask him about his first one, and every day I learn different things from him,” said Torres.

Comparisons to Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos are inevitable, though neither is Mexican and Ramos wasn’t born in the United States. Skilled enough to hit a variety of passes, shots and serves, and strong enough to shrug off a tackle, Reyna and Ramos brightened U.S. midfields with flair and vision most of their teammates weren’t capable of.

Dempsey plays a somewhat Latino game, a product of playing in heavily Hispanic leagues when he wasn’t being ferried by his parents to train with the Dallas Texans club team. Landon Donovan credits his Hispanic teammates and opponents for much of his guile and flair.

Scouts from Mexican club Pachuca spotted Torres while he was in high school. Dempsey went to college (Furman), Donovan headed to Germany (Bayer Leverkusen), and Torres crossed the border into Mexico to start a pro career in his late teens.

Bradley called Torres into the U.S. squad after he’d turned down an opportunity to join the U.S. Olympic team prior to the 2008 Summer Games. He broke into the starting lineup at Pachuca and didn’t want to jeopardize his place.

As the son of a Mexican father and American mother, he had a choice to make. When the USA called again after the Olympics, after he’d asked for advice from his teammates about whether he should wait for a call from Mexico, Torres signed up.

After Torres debuted for the USA against Cuba and made his first start against Trinidad & Tobago four days later in October, 2008, the coach said to si.com, "In the two games that he's played, he has shown that he has a good way get into open spots to get the ball. He's a simple player as far as seeing the next play and making the right pass.”

So rich with attacking players is Pachuca that Torres usually plays a fairly conservative role, supporting attacks and linking the back line to the forwards with timely dribbles and sharp passes. In his early U.S. stints, what he wasn’t doing was clogging up passing lanes and getting into tackles.

Bradley took a lot of heat for removing Torres at halftime of a Hexagonal qualifier last year against Costa Rica with the USA trailing, 2-0. While he showed good touch and vision, Torres couldn’t break up plays or win the ball, and spent the second half on the bench. He didn’t play three days later in a 2-1 victory over Honduras, and though he went to South Africa for the Confederations Cup he didn’t get into a game. He wasn’t selected for the Gold Cup.

His tenacity and positional acumen had increased sharply by last October, when Bradley inserted him into the final Hexagonal qualifier at RFK in the 63rd minute with the U.S. trailing Costa Rica, 2-0. Torres won tackles and intercepted passes in his own half, and regularly pushed the ball upfield as the U.S. battled back to get within a goal, and then scored a stunning stoppage-time equalizer.

He fulfilled much the same role Saturday against Turkey. Said Bradley after the match, “Similar to the second half against Costa Rica, at that point when you’re behind, we’re pushing Michael [Bradley] to be more active and more mobile and the understanding between the two was good. I thought Jose really played well and was sharp, found the right people and covered all the holes really well . ”

Son Michael concurred. “I think he came on at a time when we needed to get the ball in play and move,” he said. “I think he comes on and finds a good rhythm and is able to connect things at a quick tempo and at the same time then allow me to be a little bit more mobile, a little more dynamic and find some spots forward.”

His use off the bench might indicate Torres’ role at the World Cup will be as a sub, and offensive catalyst. Yet the rounding of his game since being substituted nearly a year ago could pay off in more extensive duty, as his place within the squad is not only assured, but welcomed by his teammates.

“I've started to gain a lot more confidence and I feel good,” he said at the press conference Wednesday. “I feel good about my teammates and every day I'm learning something from them. We have a great group of guys and we all get along."



6 comments
  1. John D. Archimede
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 9:22 a.m.
    I hope Coach Bradley realizes the value of a midfielder that can create chances and can start an attack quickly as Jose Torres can. His ability on the pitch is more valuable then most critics think. I played soccer for 30 years and creative midfielders are essential for attacking and defending. I coached youth soccer for 25 years and after I set up my Defense a creative midfielder was my next vision because a great midfielder is hard to find in the States. Jose Torres will boost our chances in the World Cup with his Latino Style of play. I am half Latino and played many years and do to my speaking Spanish they passed me the ball in pick up games and I learned a lot from the Latino Players who grew up with this wonderful game called Futbol. Go USA!

  1. John Munnell
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.
    We've got Clarks and Edus and countless thousands of others who can get "stuck in". (Michael Bradley comes to mind, in fact.) But we don't have near enough of what Torres has got. I'm as whitebread, Northern European as they come...but I know a gem when I see one. Please get Torres on the field!

  1. Gene Jay
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.
    Torres certainly looked great against a very strong Turkey. Subbing in when oposition is tired may be best role--as it is to be determined if he can be that effective over 90 min at WC level (although I would live to see a replay of him playing in Mexico for 90 min--maybe he can be THAT good over 90!!). I have complete confidence in Bob Bradley to use him correctly.

  1. Mike Gaynes
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.
    Bradley should start his best 11, and Torres is clearly in that category.

  1. Alex Lozano
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.
    I really hope Torres gets an opportunity to not only play, but start in South Africa. Hopefully, Bradley gets over his "issues" with Torres & sees how positive an impact he can have on our team. Thankfully, Torres has shown a lot of patience, while learning, and looks like that patience will lead to a magnified role for the USMNT!!

  1. Joseph Krantz
    commented on: June 3, 2010 at 9:12 p.m.
    We can only hope that Bradley sees the value of Torres and uses him. I have my doubts that he will see much time. I can alraedy hear Bradley telling us that he is a defensive liability.


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