Dynamo striker Erick “Cubo” Torres has another chance to don the colors of El Tri beginning Friday as the Mexico national team Under-23s try and defend their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying title, and with that, the Olympic Gold.
Torres was only 19 years old and the youngest player on the roster in March 2012, when Mexico rolled through the tournament, outscoring opponents 11-1 in the group stage before defeating Canada in the semifinals and outlasting Honduras through extra time in a 2-1 final victory. Torres made three appearances, scoring the game-winner in stoppage time for a 1-0 win against Panama to cap the group stage.
The Guadalajara native was left off the roster for the 2012 Olympics, where Mexico won its first gold medal with a memorable triumph over Brazil in the Gold Medal Match at Wembley Stadium.
Mexico and seven other CONCACAF rivals now have their eyes on Rio de Janeiro, host city of next summer’s Olympic Games. For Torres, the group stage will offer some familiar surroundings, as Mexico opens the tournament against Costa Rica on Friday at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., the former home stadium for Torres and where he scored many of his 22 goals during his two-year loan to Chivas USA. Mexico will remain at StubHub Center to play Haiti on Tuesday before rounding out group play against Honduras on Oct. 7 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado, coincidentally the site of Torres’ first cap with the senior national team, a win against Bolivia last September.
The top two teams in each of the four-team groups advance to the semifinals, set for Oct. 10 at Rio Tinto Stadium outside Salt Lake City. The Olympic trip hinges on the semifinals, as only the two semifinals winners are guaranteed a place in Rio. The winner of the third-place game must play Colombia for the last qualifying spot in the Americas.
The United States is in Group A, with Canada, Cuba and Panama. The Americans will try and get back to the Olympics after missing the 2012 Games following a shock 3-3 tie against El Salvador in the 2012 group stage finale that left the U.S. in third place and out of the Olympics.