COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — For years, the Colorado Rapids have talked about trying to land a Designated Player. For months, the Rapids have talked about their desire to add another goalscorer.
After the long wait, they appear finally to have found the man to fit both roles: Panamanian striker Gabriel Torres.
The Rapids are in the process of finalizing the acquisition of the 24-year-old, who has scored five goals in this month's Gold Cup. Torres, who recently led the Venezuelan Clausura tournament in goals with Zamora FC, is expected to be signed as the first DP in Colorado history, according to Rapids technical director Paul Bravo.
“We’re looking for a goalscorer, and he fits the profile of a young, up-and-coming player, not just in CONCACAF, but in South America as well,” Bravo told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday. ”He’s scored big goals, still only 24 years old, still a couple years before he gets into his prime. If you look at the makeup of our group, [it’s] a young nucleus of quality players that we hope can grow together and give us some sustainable success over the next few years. And he fits as a goalscorer in that group.”
Torres notched 11 goals in 15 games in leading Zamora to the Venezuelan title. He also has played for Chepo and San Francisco in Panama and several clubs in Colombia. While with América de Cali, he ran into some issues for his behavior off the field, including accusations of staying out late and partying.
But Bravo and the Rapids quelled their concerns about Torres' character after doing extensive research and, speaking with the player himself earlier this month, they feel comfortable about their soon-to-be star striker’s character.
“[The Panamanians] were concerned about his youthful exuberance. I think that’s one of the reasons they were reluctant to call him [to the national team] on a consistent basis,” Bravo said. “We gathered all that information with people down in Venezuela, in his national team camp, himself. Sitting with him was very important for us in regards to moving forward with trying to sign him.”
On the field, the Rapids believe Torres will be able to adapt to MLS’ increased physicality and blend into a growing core of young players that the club can build around for years to come.
“He is at the tip of everybody’s tongue. He’s tied with two players that are very well known in our league, Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski, who are DP players,” Bravo said. “If you take a look at his record in Venezuela, seven goals last year, 22 this year, you see a player who we think could be on the rise.”
Torres has been part of the Panamanian setup since 2005, when, at 16, he became the youngest player ever capped by the senior team. Now the Rapids are willing to bet he is ready to explode in MLS.
“He’s got the makeup, he’s still got room to get stronger in his upper body," Bravo said. "I think if he can do that, there’s no doubt in our mind he can score goals in this league.”
The club is expected to formally announce the move on Monday.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.