COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- The last time Gabriel Torres was in the starting lineup, on May 7th, he looked like a shell of himself. The 25-year-old Panamanian, the first Designated Player in Colorado franchise history, could barely get a touch on the ball, looking lost, out of shape and frankly disinterested over the opening two months of the season.
Fast forward nearly three months, and a different Torres started in Friday night’s 3-0 win over Chivas USA at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. A more confident, hard-charging Torres directly impacted all three of Colorado’s goals, even scoring his first of the season in the 75th minute.
“For strikers it’s all about scoring goals, and I think tonight [Torres] took a big burden off his shoulders with that goal he scored,” Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni told reporters postgame. “That’s the kind of quality he has and has shown in training, and now to translate that into games is really an important piece for this team moving forward.”
Torres took part in a highly-individualized set of exercises in May and June designed to help him lose weight and improve his posture, but additionally, Mastroeni spent time jogging with the striker, getting to know him and speaking with him on a one-on-one basis.
It appears those chats, the time off and the side work have made all the difference. On Friday night, Torres not only scored, but he chipped in on the first two Colorado goals. A terrific run and center set up Nick LaBrocca’s fantastic opener in the 16th minute, and a deflected Torres shot set up the corner kick on which Drew Moor headed home just 10 minutes later.
For players and coaches alike, the difference in Torres’ confidence is easy to spot, and with July on the verge of becoming August, a healthy and productive Torres could be the biggest acquisition-by-default the Rapids make all summer.
“[Torres] puts so much effort into every single time he’s on the field, whether it’s in training or in the gym,” Moor told reporters postgame. “We absolutely love having him in the locker room. When he scores a goal like that, I think maybe he breathes a little bit of a sigh of relief, but again, forwards go through their moments and hopefully it’ll boost his confidence.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.