GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Toluca midfielder Diego de la Torre has ample experience in Mexico’s first division, two league titles and Copa Libertadores minutes to his name.
It’s a fine résumé for a 27-year-old in the prime of his career at one of Mexico’s power clubs, to be sure. But there’s a twist: He also has United States residency and is desperate for a shot at the US national team.
“I’d be really happy for them to contact me and if they gave me the opportunity to represent the United States, I’d wear the shirt [with the same pride] as anyone else,” de la Torre told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Toluca on Wednesday.
Born in San Luis Potosí in 1984, de la Torre has had United States residency for 10 years thanks to his grandmother, who was born in Mexico but became a US citizen.
“All my dad’s side of the family is in Chicago,” he explained. “I haven’t been for three years, but I used to go regularly. Chicago’s a great city.”
De la Torre can play as a wide player, in central midfield or as a deep striker. He has started nine games and come on five times as sub this season for Toluca, the club he joined when he was 16 years old and at which he won the Mexican league title in the 2005 and 2008 Apertura tournaments.
The issue of de la Torre’s dual nationality first came to light in the Mexican press back in 2008, soon after dual nationals José Francisco Torres and Michael Orozco Fiscal had made their debuts for the United States under Bob Bradley.
“It is real, it is official,” de la Torre told ESPNdeportes.com back in Oct. 2008. “[The US federation] have told me that they have been watching me the past few months, after they found out about my double nationality. It is something that motivates me.”
Injuries intervened and de la Torre found it harder to get a starting role in the Toluca first team in subsequent seasons. For the start of 2010, he was loaned to San Luis, but returned to Toluca one year later.
This season has been his most successful since the 2008 Apertura, when he scored in a penalty shootout in the final against Cruz Azul to help Toluca to the title.
According to de la Torre, US Soccer has monitored his and last contacted him a little more than a year ago.
“They asked if I wanted to go if called up,” explained de la Torre. “I told them I was ready.”
An added twist to the story is that de la Torre’s father, Ramón de la Torre, won 10 caps for the Mexican national team. What would he say if his son turned out in the Stars and Stripes?
“He’d be happy,” said de la Torre. “He just wants what is best for me.”
Toluca is all but out of contention for a playoff spot with one game of the Mexican regular season remaining, but de la Torre expects to still be with the Red Devils come the New Year.
However, it was an open secret that de la Torre, along with many Toluca teammates, was available for transfer last summer. His current contract runs until next summer.
“After that, [the future] will be decided,” added de la Torre.
Should de la Torre be called up by US coach Jurgen Klinsmann at some point, he may face a rush to get a passport, but the player has been advised that it would not be problematic.
“I think I’d need a passport but they have told me that after having residency for five years, they give it you immediately,” he said. “If there is an opportunity to go to the national team, I don’t think there would be any problem getting the passport.”
Even so, considering Klinsmann’s open-mindedness to foreign-born players, a trip up to the Chicago passport office may not be the worst idea this winter for de la Torre.
Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter: @mexicoworldcup