COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It didn’t require a soccer guru to see something was wrong with Colorado Rapids striker Gabriel Torres. The club’s first-ever Designated Player was lumbering through matches, often disappearing and ineffective both on the stat sheet (no goals in eight appearances this season) and to the naked eye.
The Rapids, however, think they’ve pinpointed the roots of the 25-year-old Panamanian international’s issues. For the last two weeks, the club’s training staff has been working on helping Torres both lose weight and increase stamina through a variety of exercises in a set of highly-individualized while leaving him out of game practices and matches in the process.
Torres is expected to return for the Rapids’ June 7 trip to face FC Dallas, and when he does return, the club hopes to see the player that shined down the stretch after his acquisition last August.
“He was carrying a bit of excessive weight that was putting a lot of strain on his back, and I think in the two-and-a-half weeks he’s dropped [about 10 pounds],” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “That alleviates a lot of the muscle strain and also the postural stuff that he’s been working on, which is hamstrings and quads not firing, which is leaving all the pressure on the glutes, which is pulling on your lower back, which is putting a lot of strain on his body.
"[After] two-and-a-half weeks he’s come to me and said, ‘I haven’t felt this good in years.’”
Torres was diagnosed with “significant muscle damage” in a scan earlier this month, and the Rapids decided to shut him down from regular action for over two weeks leading up to the Panama friendlies. In the meantime, Torres has been working with head athletic trainer Jaime Rojas on conditioning intended to help him last longer in games while also working on proper bodyposturing.
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“In Panama, he’s just playing soccer, so they’re not used to doing a lot of the fitness [components of the game],” Rojas told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We found early in the games that he started disappearing from games, sort of holding himself back when he could’ve pushed or what have you. So what we’re trying to do is get him to the right level to where his performance is the best it can be for him.”
The idea is that when Torres returns from international duty next week (he met up with the Panamanian team on Wednesday and wasn’t available for comment) he’ll be ready for the grind of the season, something he didn’t appear prepared for less than a month ago.
“To see him come back and be as sharp as I’ve seen since I’ve been here, was really promising.” said Mastroeni, while adding he’s gotten to know Torres during his on-field absence by jogging with him during his exercises. “[I see a] huge difference, both physically and from a mindset perspective. He’s working a lot harder than anyone else here.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.