GUADALAJARA, Mexico — When Pachuca midfielder José Francisco “Gringo” Torres puts on the US shirt on Friday, minutes before heading down the tunnel and onto the Home Depot Center pitch for a friendly against Costa Rica, 17-year-old Pachuca resident Joanna Hérnandez will already have her US replica jersey on and will be getting ready to support him.
“Obviously I have US national team shirts and I put one on every time he plays [for the US],” Hérnandez told MLSsoccer.com, as if it were the norm down in Mexico. She was then quick to add, “I try not to go out those days.”
Hérnandez is part of the “Club de Fans Mexicanas muy Gringas,” a José Francisco Torres fan club, which has a visible presence thanks to its banners at Pachuca’s home games and regular updates to its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“The name says it all,” said Hérnandez. “We are from Pachuca and we support José in the good times and bad.”
That includes when he plays for the United States.
A cult favorite amongst fans north of the border, Torres has become part of the furniture at Pachuca, the club that labels itself “Mexico’s Team.”
The 23-year-old headed south from Longview, Texas, at just 16 years old. Now settled and married to a local girl in the city that claims to be the home of Mexican soccer, the fact Torres rose through the Pachuca youth system to establish himself in the first team makes him one of Pachuca’s own, regardless of which national team he plays for.
“He has become one of the reference points of the team, one of the few that have come from the youth system to become a first-team regular,” local journalist Josué Ortiz told MLSsoccer.com this week.
At a recent Pachuca game in Guadalajara, MLSsoccer.com took to the bleachers to talk to Tuzos fans about “el Gringo,” and received positive feedback.
“We support him [when he plays for the US],” said Rosario Bramila Brambila, who has known Torres since he arrived in Pachuca. “It’s here where he developed.”
Torres is grateful for his Pachuca fan base and tries to interact with the fans as much as possible.
“I’ve been here for seven years and I’m always there with the fans,” Torres told MLSsoccer.com recently. “If I can, I’ll give them an autograph and try to show them my support. I’m thankful for them for supporting me in good times and bad times.”
The decision over which national team to play for weighed heavy on Torres, but Ortiz believes the Mexican media made it even harder for the Texan midfielder and that there was just a hint of jealously south of the border when he chose the United States.
“A lot of them started talking about ‘el Gringo’ and bringing nationalism into it,” said Ortiz. “Many also blamed the Mexican federation for not following up enough with a young talented player like José Francisco Torres, who showed a lot of promise that he is now starting to fulfill in the US setup.”
Ever loyal, Pachuca native Hérnandez said she was actually in favor of him playing for the States.
“The first thing that came into my mind was his family,” she explained. “It wasn’t just a personal decision, but one which had to take into account the fact his mom and siblings are American and his father Mexican. It was a difficult moment in his career, but he made the right decision.”
The main body of Torres’ hardcore supporters in Pachuca is female, and the fan club is made up of girls from all over Mexico.
“He is very popular with the ladies,” laughed Ortiz, who knows Torres through his job as a reporter for local newspaper Diario Criterio Hidalgo. “A lot of girls go to the stadium just to see him play.”
The fact Torres seems at ease in Pachuca also shows itself on the pitch. With his back as straight as an ironing board and chest puffed out, Torres is Pachuca’s central midfield general, constantly talking to teammates, demanding the ball and spraying around long and short passes at will.
For Torres to play with the same sense of self-confidence and borderline arrogance for the US national team may take time and a consistent run in Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting 11. Down south in the old Mexican mining town of Pachuca, the loyal band of Mexican Torres fans will be watching on, US jerseys on their backs.
Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com