Could the third season be the charm for Erick “Cubo” Torres and the Houston Dynamo?
That’s the hope as he returns to the team after Liga MX side Cruz Azul opted not to purchase Torres following his 2016 loan spell, and it’s no surprise. Sidelined by a knee injury for most of his time in Mexico City, Torres only logged 43 minutes of action spread across three appearances.
With Torres’ return, the Dynamo hope his Chivas USA scoring touch does as well.
Houston signed Torres ahead of the 2015 season with high optimism. Torres had scored 22 goals in 44 games with Chivas USA — 34 of them under new Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera.
Torres’ time in Houston has been nothing less than a letdown, however. The 23-year-old has just 11 appearances and one assist in each of the last two seasons, with little sign of the instinctive finisher who led the Goats.
Cabrera said this week that he trusts Cubo to regain his form, because he knows what the Mexican international is capable of. He adds that Torres should feel confident knowing that Cabrera likes him, his playing style and characteristics.
“I’m going to try to help him, with his teammates, to explode his talent,” said Cabrera. “That’s something that is not going to change from me from what we did in Chivas [USA].”
The ball is now in Torres’ court, Cabrera notes, but competition for playing time will be stiff. When Torres left Houston for Cruz Azul, he left a Dynamo team in disarray. The sole spotlight: Torres’ eventual replacement in the lineup, Mauro Manotas, scored six goals in eight games – including a hat trick against Portland on Sept. 24 – to finish the season.
Add to the mix recent acquisitions and Honduran internationals Alberth Elis, who like Manotas is a Young Designated Player, and Romell Quioto, and Cubo returns to a Dynamo team with a full deck of attacking options.
But that’s exactly how Cabrera wants it.
“What we’re trying to do here is to create an internal competition,” said Cabrera during Thursday’s press conference to present Elis and Quioto. “When you have an internal competition, you’re not comfortable.”
He added that a comfortable team breeds relaxed players, and the Dynamo “don’t have the time to relax – we need to compete.” Cabrera wants to do that by having “fair” competition at every position, and his team's battle royale might just be at the forward position.
Dynamo general manager and vice president Matt Jordan agreed with Cabrera, adding that Cabrera’s track record in getting the most out of players should bode well for all players, including Torres.
“For all of our players, it’s a clean slate and a fresh start,” said Jordan. “And it’s going to be an open competition, and what’s important is that internal competition to help raise the level of the team.”
Cabrera offered a simple message for Cubo.
“He needs to bring his confidence back,” said Cabrera. “How? By every day working in practice and scoring some goals. When he scores one goal, everything is going to change for him. He just needs to score one goal.”
Cabrera motioned with his neck and chest to indicate that Torres’ drought-breaking goal needs to come any way possible – “maybe with his neck, maybe with his heels, maybe he’s going deflect a shot.”
However it may come, that long sought-after strike will go a long way towards helping Torres – and the Dynamo.