COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- He’s supposed to be the Colorado Rapids’ goal-scoring machine, zig-zagging around opposing defenses and topping the scoring chart in the Major League Soccer.
But for striker Gabriel Torres - the club’s first-ever Designated Player - the frustration is starting to mount. He has not started the team’s last four matches, and on Tuesday he expressed concerns about his situation.
“The truth is I’m a bit sad,” Torres told MLSsoccer.com in Spanish. “But they’re coaching decisions, and as a professional, I have to respect them.”
Torres has just two goals and one assist in 17 league matches this year and looked out of sorts until a specialized conditioning program helped him lose 10 pounds and improve his body posture in late May. But even after that transformation, his time has been sparse of late, logging just 68 total minutes in four matches this month.
Hyped virtually all his life after bursting onto the international scene at the tender age of 16 and scoring at every club stop he’s made, from Panama to Venezuela, sitting on the bench is not exactly familiar territory for the Panamanian star, who co-led last year’s Gold Cup in scoring.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been in this situation,” Torres said. “I have to keep working and hoping that things will improve.”
So why isn’t Torres playing? The answer is two-fold.
First off, Torres’ conditioning, a long-standing issue tracing back to the May program, appears to still be a concern. He has not played a full 90 minutes since May 7.
Additionally, second-year striker Deshorn Brown has eight goals this season, and head coach Pablo Mastroeni simply prefers Brown and wily veteran attacking midfielder Vicente Sánchez in Torres’ place. Despite a middle-of-the-pack 37 goals scored this season (10th in MLS at 1.48 per game), the Rapids’ offense of late – 13 goals in their last eight matches (1.63 per game, which would tie for fifth) – has consistently provided goals.
Torres is expected to get playing time in September, but for Panama in the upcoming Copa Centroamericana rather than for the Rapids. In Colorado, it’s Torres who’s been left in the dust, pondering what comes next.
“I have to wait still; there are still games to go,” Torres said when asked if he would leave the club if the situation continued. “It’s too early to make such a pressure-laden decision. Now I have a chance to play with [Panama] next month, and I hope things will go well. At the end of the season, I’ll make a decision.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.