Tuesday night marked a soft opening for the Erick “Cubo” Torres era in Houston. After debuting Tuesday in a 26-minute run-out in a U.S. Open Cup loss, Torres is a day away from starting his Dynamo career in earnest with his first MLS game in front of his new hometown fans.
With him still working on his fitness level, Torres is likely to start his Dynamo career watching from the sideline.
“He’ll certainly be involved tomorrow, I don’t anticipate that he’ll start tomorrow,” head coach Owen Coyle said. “It won’t be too long until he’s ready to start games. We’ve got to understand that obviously when he was on loan at Chivas Guadalajara he probably never played as many starts as he would have liked.
“What we have to do now is get him physically and mentally into a situation that he’s ready to start games and that comes with training on the field, getting some minutes on the pitch and building that up and that’s what we’ll look to do.”
Coyle said he was happy with Torres’ 26 minutes in Kansas City. With the Dynamo down a man, Coyle likened his time to a full half of soccer considering the amount of running he did to keep the Dynamo in contention.
While his Coyle wants to work him in slowly, Torres said Friday that he feels ready and to pitch in any way the team needs, which includes starting the game.
“I feel really good. I feel ready to go but I’m just going to take direction,” Torres said through a translator. “[Playing Tuesday] felt really good. It felt good to put on that orange shirt and get some time in even though it wasn’t a lot. If they tell me to play 15 I’ll play 15, if they tell me to play 90 I’ll play 90.”
As he ran to cut lanes off and mostly defended late in the game, he got precious few touches on the ball and without them came a missed chance to show his sharpness.
If Torres is to play a role late Saturday he’ll need to show a lack of rust when it comes to striking a ball.
“I feel good. I feel strong, I’m just ready to take direction,” Torres said. “When they tell me to go in and play I’ll be ready to go.”
Adding that touch, whether as a reserve or starter, will be imperative for Torres. Houston are currently without Jamaican star Giles Barnes and playing with as many as eight players unable to go.
To have the impact that he and those around the club want, he’ll need to show quickly he can hit the back of the net and provide help to goalscoring leader Will Bruin.
Bruin and Torres are likely to get acquainted if both are expected to play together; it’s a relationship that, like Cubo’s fitness, has yet to really take off.
“He’s a great finisher in the box and you can already tell just training with him,” Bruin said. “He’s a very nice guy … [he’s] another threat going forward and the more threats we have going forward the better this team’s going to be at creating chances.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.