With cheers, flashing camera phones held aloft and loud chants of “Cubo, Cubo, Cubo!", Dynamo fans hailed the star new signing as he was introduced at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Several hundred fans thronged the Tecate Light Terrace to meet Erick Torres, whose acquisition was the highlight of the club’s busy offseason.
Among them was Martin Cano, a 48-year-old Dynamo season ticket holder wearing a Mexico jersey, who said he is hopeful Torres will become the club’s best-ever Hispanic player. “I’m very excited for many reasons,” he said. “He’s a very young, very good player…. he’ll be really good [for the Dynamo]—he has been really good with Chivas USA.”
Another season ticket holder clad in an orange Dynamo jersey, 40-year-old Tomas Garcia, said he was “definitely excited” by the signing of the Mexican international forward. “He’s a talented player. You’ve seen what he did with Chivas and Chivas USA,” he said. “He’s got the skill.”
The 22-year-old scored at a rate of a goal every two games in MLS for the now-defunct Chivas USA franchise and made his full Mexico debut last year. He was signed as a Designated Player by the Dynamo just before Christmas and loaned to Liga MX giants C.D. Guadalajara until the summer.
Houston president Chris Canetti underlined the scale of the move at a press conference before Torres met the fans and held a question-and-answer session. “This is a monumental signing for the Houston Dynamo,” said Canetti, who paid tribute to the club’s owners for making the deal possible. “He’s going to elevate the level of excitement around the team and the fanbase … I think this is the most significant signing we’ve made in our very short history.”
The level of buzz among the supporters on Sunday was early evidence of the deal’s magnitude, with the Dynamo hoping Torres will help energize and expand the fanbase as well as continue his prolific record on the field. The Dynamo roster now has seven native Spanish speakers, with former Spanish league defender Raúl Rodríguez another notable winter addition who will play alongside the likes of Honduran World Cup veterans Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido.
Canetti is confident that Torres will quickly integrate into the side under new head coach Owen Coyle, whose enthusiasm and passion is instantly infectious. He also plans to play an attacking style that should see the striker enjoy plenty of high-caliber service from the wings and demonstrate his aerial prowess. “It doesn’t take long for people and Owen to get acquainted,” Canetti said. “You feel like you’ve known him for a hundred years—he’s that kind of person”.
That’s certainly the player’s aim. “It’s a good city and the city deserves someone who can come in and make an impact immediately,” Torres said through a translator. “I pay attention on Twitter, video, the internet. I’m going to keep up with the internet. When I get here I’ll try to adapt as soon as possible to the city, the stadium, the people and everything to give positive results as soon as possible.”
Torres flew in from Los Angeles for the day to attend the event. “I’m very happy with the reception, very happy to be here and happy with everything the team has done for me so far. I’m just looking forward to contributing,” he said.
“I’m happy to belong to the Houston Dynamo—this is probably the best decision I could have made.”
The Dynamo open their 2015 MLS campaign at home to the Columbus Crew on March 7 (TICKETS). The roster is presently at a preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona, and will head back to Houston after an exhibition game against the Vancouver Whitecaps at 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday.
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.