Of all Owen Coyle’s achievements as manager of Bolton Wanderers, one of his proudest was developing a raw young striker who went on to become a star at Liverpool and a key member of England’s 2014 World Cup team.
In January 2011, Daniel Sturridge was a prodigious striker who was struggling to make a consistent impact at Chelsea. He joined Coyle’s Bolton on loan, was suffused with self-confidence and scored eight goals in twelve games, becoming one of the English Premier League’s hottest properties.
“Owen Coyle changed my life completely,” Sturridge told reporters in the UK last March. Now, Coyle is looking forward to helping Torres reach his full potential with Houston. The club announced on Tuesday night that the 21-year-old Mexican international has joined the Dynamo and will move to Texas next summer after a loan spell with his hometown club, Chivas de Guadalajara of the Liga MX.
It’s one of the most notable signings in Dynamo history and has made waves in both the U.S. and Mexico, where Torres is seen as one of El Tri’s rising stars.
When he gets here it will be a meeting of men who know a thing or two about goalscoring. By his own admission, Coyle was never the most talented striker in British soccer. But the 48-year-old from Glasgow had a long and successful career in Scotland and England, becoming a prolific forward and earning an Ireland cap. So he’s confident his experience can help Torres grow.
“I was very fortunate in my career, I wasn’t the best player but I managed to score 297 goals. So I know where the goals are and I can certainly look to impart my knowledge, the little bits and pieces that can help Cubo develop,” said Coyle on Wednesday during a media conference call.
“There’s no doubt having spoken to him, he’s hungry to get better. He has that desire that when he gets up in the morning he wants to be the best he can be. He wants to score goals and very importantly, a feeling I got from the chat with him, he wants to contribute to Houston Dynamo. And that was a huge pull for us. He wants to be part of us moving forward together. I’ve got no doubt he’s only going to get better and better.”
Coyle sees parallels between Sturridge and Torres. “There are so many similarities in how they play and Daniel’s on the verge I feel of becoming a world-class player. And that’s how we want to develop Cubo, we want to take all the qualities he has but enhance them and make them even better. And obviously he’ll come into a very good group, a real tight-knit group,” he said.
“He’s got every attribute required to be a top international striker at the highest part of the game. He has quick feet, pace, an eye for goal. He can score right foot, left foot, he can score headed goals but the great thing for me is that his anticipation in and around the box is second to none. This is a young man that can only get better.”
Torres is a rare blend of youthful potential and proven pedigree. In only two MLS seasons he has become one of the league’s most feared strikers, scoring 15 times in 29 games for Chivas USA in 2014. The previous year he hit the net seven times in 15 appearances.
Dynamo president Chris Canetti said on the call that Torres’ arrival, two weeks after Coyle joined, is a “monumental signing” that “represents a new era that’s underway here”, and praised club ownership, MLS staff and the player’s agents for helping make the move a reality.
“I’m very thankful for Chris, Matt [Jordan, Dynamo VP/GM] and the coach, for the confidence they have in me and to be part of the club. I hope to score lots of goals in an orange jersey,” Torres said through a translator. “I’ll do my best every day to earn a spot [in the team].”
Torres is expected to travel to Houston for an in-person introduction in the new year. “By all accounts we’ve signed a wonderful young man with a great personality, a lot of character and integrity and obviously a player that’s going to strengthen our team,” said Canetti.
“We’ve added a player that’s going to bring great excitement around our club and to our games and added a player that’s going to help us connect with the diverse community that is here in Houston. Hopefully this signing makes a statement to our market and to our fanbase that we’re serious about winning and about establishing a diversified roster of players.”
Torres has twice played against the Dynamo for Chivas USA: a 5-1 loss at BBVA Compass Stadium in September last year, and a 4-1 defeat at StubHub Center last May where he scored Chivas USA's lone goal via the penalty spot. So he has plenty of respect for the team’s work rate and ability.
“After playing against them I saw that they were a very competitive team and very serious and I saw all the things that they did in order to get me on the team. I know that it’s a beautiful city with a large Latino community so it will definitely make me feel at home,” he said.
And working for a head coach with Coyle’s background is also bound to help when Torres arrives in Houston looking to build on already formidable foundations.
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.