After a month away at Gold Cup, Gabriel Torres returns to Colorado Rapids hoping to crack starting XI

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Colorado Rapids striker Gabriel Torres has fondly become known as “the little ghost” among his teammates. And he’s helping his native Panama become one of the scarier teams in CONCACAF following a third-place finish at last month’s Gold Cup.

“[Panama] definitely deserved to be in the final,” Torres told in Spanish. “Mexico and the United States are usually the favorites, but they have no easy games anymore. Anyone can win the region and it’s great for CONCACAF.”

He earned the nickname “El Fantasmita” earlier in his career for his ability to “appear out of nowhere” to score goals, and in the first half of Colorado’s 2015 he’s done just that, leading the team with four goals and two assists in 16 starts.

“My play in Colorado has been a big part of earning my selection with the national team,” Torres explained. “I was playing really well, and scoring goals. I’ve got to keep that up in order to be ready for the qualifiers coming up.”

For Torres, being part of a Panama squad which downed the United States via penalty shootout was a definite morale boost.

“Yes, the result does give you confidence,” he said. “The Gold Cup was a great testament to how far MLS has come over the past couple of years. It was a tough tournament with great players and to see a lot of them playing in this league is great for the reputation of the league not just in the region but all over the world. It was a good tournament and great to be with the guys.”

Back with his club, he’s faced with a new challenge. With a month away from altitude and a limited role for Los Canaleros, Torres will have to work hard to regain his place on a Rapids team which won three-straight in his absence.

“We’re glad to have him back and waiting to see how he acclimates to the group,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “Gaby has just been with us real quick so it’s about integrating him back with the group and working on the fitness he’s lost.”

In both appearance and spirit however, Torres appears to be very much the same player that Mastroeni praised for a “remarkable” turnaround following a down campaign in 2014.

“I’ve got to work as hard as I can in training,” Torres said. “The team did really well while I was away, winning three games but I’ve got to keep doing what I do well to crack the starting 11. We have to keep working to get our results.”