Throughout his short tenure in Major League Soccer, midfielder Roger Torres has been mainly used in a reserve role for the Philadelphia Union.
That appears to be changing.
After starting just four times through the Union’s first 25 games of the season, the 20-year-old Colombian has started each of the past four contests for Philly, emerging as a consistent attacking threat rather than simply just a sparkplug off the bench.
“There are very few players as good as Roger Torres,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “For him, it’s just another example of a young player who has developed and continues to develop.”
Because of Torres’ young age, small stature and the fact that he’s still getting accustomed to American soccer, the Union coaches have been particularly careful about nurturing the Colombian import.
And while Torres is still not a 90-minute player, he has been given more of the workload of late, playing more than 70 minutes in three of his last four starts, while scoring a brilliant goal against New England earlier this month to kickstart Philly’s dramatic three-goal comeback. It was his third goal of the season.
“Every player will take small steps forward,” Hackworth said. “Then you hit a point where have to be humbled a little bit and you take a step backwards in order to go forward. This is a very long season with a lot of ups and downs in different ways, both physically and certainly mentally as well – and not to mention the emotional aspect of being on a team and the pressures of what a training environment is like.
“We’re happy Roger has definitely made the adjustment to becoming much more aware of things that are important for us as a team and important for him as an individual.”
No matter if he’s a starter of a bench player, Torres has really endeared himself to Union supporters over the past two seasons. The diminutive midfielder immediately showed his potential by recording the first assist in franchise history last year, and has since become a fan favorite with his crafty ballskills and aggressive attacking style.
Even though there have been stretches this season where Torres hasn’t played much, the young Colombian is just as highly regarded among Union coaches. But they also know there are still many more steps he needs to take in his journey to MLS stardom – and that his recent inclusion in the starting lineup represents only one of those steps.
“Our hope as a coaching staff is that he still has a long way to go,” Hackworth said. “And that’s great news for us – because our expectations are pretty high about what he is capable of.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.