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11/23 FINAL
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Gabriel Torres reveals Panama coach, ex-Colorado Rapids star's advice key in decision to sign up

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — As he jogged off the field from his first practice in a Rapids uniform on Friday morning, Gabriel Torres couldn’t hide an unmistakable, cheek-to-cheek smile. He flashed a child-like grin as he walked, rather, skipped over to conduct his first media interviews since officially signing with Colorado on Thursday night.

The Rapids’ new star man, signed as the first Designated Player in franchise history on Thursday, practiced for the first time in Colorado on Friday morning and reflected on the whirlwind journey that linked him with clubs from Mexico to Turkey to France, before ultimately landing in Denver just hours before the international transfer window closed last night.

“I’m happy with my introduction to the group and to be here,” the 24-year-old told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve met all the players and things have gone well so far.”

Torres said the advice of Panamanian national team assistant coach Jorge Dely Valdés, a former Rapid himself (and current Rapids technical director Paul Bravo’s former teammate), was key to choosing Colorado over other suitors. But he also cited another big factor in choosing the United States over several international offers.

“My wife said she really like the idea of living in the United States,” said Torres, who will travel with the Rapids to Los Angeles for Sunday’s game against Chivas USA (11 pm ET, UniMas). “That was a big part of my decision.”

The Rapids had long been targeting an attacking Designated Player to complete head coach Oscar Pareja’s attack-minded and possession-based formation, which has often lacked a clinical finisher up top. So what exactly about Torres stood out for the team to make the leap of faith?

“We know him from before, and we know he’s a player that’s still growing,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “He still has a lot of things to grow into. Gabriel is a forward that is aggressive and his career is going up. That’s one of the things because we want players who can grow with us as well. This project is still building.”

With the long pursit of the Gold Cup star finally complete, Torres is aware the pressure is squarely on his shoulders to bring the goals the Rapids spent lots of money and effort on him to provide.

“I really like the project they have here,” said Torres, who signed a four-and-a-half year contract with the club. “They say that I can play a big role.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.