“That feeling when the ball crosses that line is like a flood of joy,” Erick Torres told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. On that basis, he’s one of the most joyful players in MLS — and next summer Dynamo fans will get to share his delight whenever he scores.
The club made a splash late Tuesday with the news that one of Mexico’s most promising forwards will suit up in Houston next season following his loan spell with Chivas de Guadalajara, which starts in January and lasts for up to six months.
It’s a statement signing. The Dynamo aren’t just inking a talented and proven goalscorer. They’re capturing a player with the potential to be a future Mexican national team star and a fan favorite, and his arrival will resonate in southeast Texas and far beyond.
“I’m thrilled and excited that this day has come,” Dynamo vice president/general manager Matt Jordan told HoustonDynamo.com. When Jordan joined the Dynamo in November, Torres was at the top of his wishlist.
“When I first took this job I remember telling [president Chris Canetti], it’d be a perfect scenario if we could get Cubo Torres to join the Houston Dynamo. The most important starting point is what any player brings on the field and that’s what stands out about Cubo to me: the quality that he brings in the offensive third on the field. He’s a good person and that’s a very important element to this as well because we feel that having players of strong character within our group is important.
“We’ve made a commitment that we want the team to be reflective of our market and to be a team that the city can be proud of, and that’s what makes this moment so special as well.”
Torres made his professional debut in 2010 aged 17 at Chivas, his hometown Liga MX club. Comparisons were quickly made with another Guadalajara product with natural goalscoring instincts, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
After a promising start to his career was followed by a challenging spell, Torres made a loan switch last year to Chivas’ Los Angeles-based sister club, Chivas USA. It proved an inspired move.
Torres only turns 22 on January 19 yet has already established himself as one of the most feared goalscorers in MLS. The now-shuttered franchise endured a testing last couple of years, but Torres thrived. He was named to the 2014 MLS All-Star roster and made his El Tri debut in a friendly against Bolivia in Colorado in September.
One of the traditional benchmarks used to define an elite goalscorer is finding the net at an average rate of a goal every two games. Though Chivas USA were not prolific, Torres was. In 2013 he scored seven times in 15 MLS appearances, and this year he claimed 15 goals in 29 appearances: more than half the entire team’s goal tally. A midsummer spurt saw him score a goal in six successive games.
Among players with at least 50 shots in 2014, Opta statistics show Torres was in the league’s top ten for goals scored, average minutes per goal, total shots, big chances scored, shot conversion rate and headers on target.
He beat Tally Hall with a penalty kick when Houston ran out 4-1 winners at the StubHub Center back in May. After two years on the West Coast he’s familiar with Western Conference defenses, a bonus for Houston as they move back to the division in 2015 after four seasons in the East.
Giles Barnes and Will Bruin reached double figures in goals in the 2014 MLS season, but the team’s overall total of 39 goals in 34 league games contributed to the Dynamo enduring the rare disappointment of missing the postseason. The addition of Torres, feeding off service from Brad Davis and Boniek García, gives the Dynamo an enviable attacking lineup — and new head coach Owen Coyle has already stated that he wants the team to play an offensive style.
The team also added to their options at forward by selecting prolific USL Pro forward Chandler Hoffman in last Thursday’s second stage of the MLS re-entry draft.
Torres is nicknamed “Cubo” for his supposedly block-shaped head, which perhaps helps explain the 5-foot-11-inch forward’s aerial prowess. Athletic and creative, he scores in a variety of ways, from the predatory to the spectacular — from evading his markers to get into position for a close-range strike, to long-range shots, to bicycle kicks. He’s already the top Mexican-born scorer in MLS history.
Mexico fans got a glimpse of his trademark robot dance goal celebration when he scored his first for the national team in October, an 89th-minute winner against Panama. In a few months, Torres and his moves are heading to Houston.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.