It’s the sight Dynamo fans have been eagerly anticipating since news of the blockbuster transfer broke last year: Erick “Cubo” Torres on the field in Houston.
The striker took part in his first training session as a Dynamo designated player on Friday ahead of the team’s road game against Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9 p.m. CT; ROOT SPORTS) and said he’s ready to open a new chapter of his career.
“Just very happy to be here, it was indeed a very lengthy process, what took place between the time I finished with Guadalajara and coming here to Houston, so obviously right now more than anything I’m just eager and aching to get in and be able to contribute to the club as quickly as possible,” he told reporters at Houston Sports Park through a translator.
"Absolutely delighted to have a player of his caliber on board," Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle said of his newest striker. "He’s a natural goalscorer, an outstanding player with even more, I believe, potential to grow and get better."
The 22-year-old Mexican international signed with the Dynamo last December and was immediately loaned to Liga MX giants Chivas, his hometown club from Guadalajara, until the summer.
He returns to MLS as one of the most feared forwards in North American soccer, with memories fresh of his two seasons with the now-defunct Chivas USA franchise. Last year he scored 15 goals in 29 MLS starts.
“I’m very happy, very grateful to have the opportunity to once more be here. This is a league that opened its doors to me, so to be able to come back and contribute once more is gratifying,” he said.
He will travel with the team to Utah and could make his Dynamo debut in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal away to Sporting Kansas City, while his first match at BBVA Compass Stadium may come on July 25 when the Los Angeles Galaxy are the visitors.
Chivas’ season ended in May but Torres said he has been keeping fit since then and has liaised with Houston’s coaches. “I kept in touch with the technical staff, the head athletic trainer, I also followed the team and kept training in Guadalajara with the Chivas B team to keep up my fitness so I could be ready to go once I landed in Houston,” he said.
“I did two double sessions, meaning I trained twice a day, then single sessions during the rest of the week. I feel I’m ready but it’s one thing to train and it’s another thing to come into a team and fully integrate yourself. A team has its own way of doing things, its own philosophy, so it’s going to be a matter of coming in and making sure I’m fully adjusted.”
The tandem of Will Bruin and Giles Barnes has become a settled partnership and they have a combined 14 MLS goals so far this season, while young Colombian striker Mauro Manotas has also impressed, so Torres knows that he’ll have to work hard to earn and keep a place in Coyle’s starting lineup.
“It’s a very interesting situation because it generates internal competition and that’s the one thing that’s going to lift up everybody, the one thing that’s going to make everybody better. So as long as we have that and as long as we understand that anybody can come in and contribute at any moment then I think we’re going to be OK,” he said.
Coyle will have to reply on roster depth at Rio Tinto Stadium for the MLS clash against RSL, who are one point below Houston in the Western Conference. Barnes is on Gold Cup duty with Jamaica and left back DaMarcus Beasley has been added to the U.S. roster for the tournament.
Coyle said that defender Jermaine Taylor faces a long spell on the sidelines after picking up a muscle injury during Jamaica’s 1-0 win over El Salvador in Toronto on Tuesday, while Boniek García could miss 4-6 weeks with a muscle strain sustained on international duty with Honduras and rookie Rob Lovejoy is also out.
Veteran left back Corey Ashe was traded to Eastern Conference newcomers Orlando City SC on Tuesday. “Given his length of service to the club, the quality of service that he’s brought and how he is as a man, it was the right decision for us to allow Corey to develop his career,” said Coyle. “The important thing is that Corey leaves with our best wishes.”
July and August’s schedule threw up seven road fixtures for Coyle’s men, but the travels started off well with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes last week. “We want to follow up a terrific road victory in San Jose,” the head coach said.
With expectations high, Torres is looking forward to making his first contributions in orange. “It’s just a matter of coming in and making sure that I reward that trust, that faith that the fans and front office have placed in me since day one,” he said.
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.