HOUSTON – When Erick "Cubo" Torres decided to remain north of the border, there was no one happier about the move than Mexican national team head coach Miguel Herrera. The El Tri boss encouraged the young striker to remain in MLS, where his career had taken off with the now-defunct Chivas USA.
While Torres pulled the trigger and the Houston Dynamo worked their magic to keep him in MLS on a permanent basis, he’s spent the last five months unsuccessfully trying to claim a regular spot while on loan with Chivas de Guadalajara.
As Herrera addressed the Houston media on Wednesday while promoting a July 1 friendly at NRG Stadium against Honduras, the Mexico boss indicated the young forward may have been better off without a stint in the Liga MX.
“Yes I was the first one to tell him not to go to Mexico, to stay here because he would’ve had more playing time. But that’s not my decision,” Herrera said in the press conference through a translator. “He said I was the first one to tell him not to go to Mexico, to stay [in MLS], and when he gets back we’ll see how he does with a team that’s a little bit more solid, a little stronger. He’s a quality player and he’ll fight for a position.”
Torres’ struggles to gain a regular spot in Chivas’ plans have been well-chronicled. He’s not been able to become a regular pick for Chivas coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre, with much of his time coming in Copa MX competition, where Chivas reached the final this season.
As Herrera looks to find the right spot for Torres in a crowded summer, it’s clear that the youngster is part of his plans. But the regular minutes that he would have gotten with the Dynamo would surely have given him a better look at where the forward is.
“A lot of people criticize [MLS]. It’s a solid league,” Herrera said. “He’s also right now in a good moment and he brings strength and consistency, and brings a lot of encouragement and pride to the Mexican community.”
Soon that loan will be water under the bridge, as it is set to expire at the end of May, after MLS’ current transfer window closes, meaning he will not be able to suit up in a game until July 8. During that stretch Torres will have the opportunity to train with Houston to stay in shape.
Of course, that also depends on which El Tri roster he could land on.
Mexico will play three tournaments this summer: the Copa America in June, the Gold Cup in July and the Pan-American Games, featuring the Under-22 team, in mid-July. Herrera said Wednesday that the nation’s best will be headed to the Gold Cup, while the other rosters will be filled out by a group of 65 players that Herrera said his coaches are evaluating.
“He’s showed us that he’s ready to play, he’s ready to be at our standards,” Herrera said. “We’re very glad he’s been chosen to come back here to Houston, which is a strong team that aspires to win championships.”
With a glut of forwards in the Mexico player pool, Torres could be in line for a spot outside the regional championship on one of the secondary rosters, with the Pan-American Games likely to offer the most playing time.
“Raul Gutierrez will be the head coach for that, the Pan-Americans. [Mexican national team technical director Hector Gonzalez Inarritu is] very involved in this process to talk about the importance that the U-22s have,” Herrera said.
“The players at the level to play, we’re going to give them the opportunity to shine, to play and thank them because that medal’s Mexican right now. If we can have a player like Cubo to represent the level we have, then he can actually raise the level of the team. We know if Cubo is with Raul, it’s important to get that golden medal.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.