For LAFC, Sunday's hard fought 1-1 draw at the Portland Timbers ended in a thrilling way, as homegrown Christian Torres scored his first MLS goal to earn his team a draw in stoppage time. It was naturally a pretty emotional moment for the 16-year-old, who was part of a trio of players that were promoted to the first team as the club's first homegrown players.
"I felt so many emotions," Torres said about the goal after the match. "It was a crazy feeling. I’m also honored and thrilled to have scored my first MLS goal. ... I’m still struck by it so not much to say."
The strike was an impressive effort, with Torres scoring immediately after receiving a quick pass from Mahala Opoku. He was able to demonstrate one of the qualities head coach Bob Bradley praised after the match in his finishing ability, and the head coach also described him as someone who has "impressed everybody" at LAFC.
"He’s got a good sense of timing," Bradley said. "He’s a good finisher. I thought he took this chance really well and it’s a proud moment to see a young player that has come through the academy score his first goal and score it at a time when we really needed it."
Torres' success against the Timbers is just one part of LAFC's strategy to allow room for younger players. Torres joined the first team with fellow academy product Erik Duenas, who made his debut against the Vancouver Whitecaps earlier in the week, and LAFC boasts other teens in Opoku and Mohamed Traore. Bradley not only takes pride in Torres' exciting start to his MLS career, but in the team strategy and the performance of the younger players.
"It’s nice to see these guys overall growing," Bradley said. "This year, it’s not easy because again, when we talk about some of the challenges, when the games come as quickly as they do, you miss out on the regular training routine that I think is so important to develop young players."
Bradley also said that Torres and the other young players are showing confidence needed to succeed at the MLS level, something Torres said stems from Bradley's belief in his abilities.
"Knowing that my coach believes in me and having my back at all times, it really motivates me in getting confidence," Torres said. "It inspires me and just motivates me to just keep going."
Torres will use his forward-thinking attitude throughout the remainder of the 2020 season, even when Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela return to the fold at some point. Torres calls them "really good help" as he continues to develop as a regular member of the LAFC first team.
"When they are here, I try to learn from them," Torres said. "Not exactly replicate but try to implement what they do in their game. ... With them being back, no downside to it."
For Bradley, Torres' performance just demonstrates the progress he and the LAFC youth have made in the 2020 MLS season.
"When opportunities present themselves, it’s always great to see them show confidence, show personality," Bradley said. "I think I mentioned after the last game we’ve seen good things from all the guys."