The negotiations that brought Erick "Cubo" Torres to Atlanta United may owe largely to the ACL tear Josef Martinez suffered in Week 1 of the 2020 season. The 27-year-old Mexican does not, however, view himself as a temporary solution. And the striker even hopes he can perform well enough in Atlanta for long enough to attract the attention of his national team.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, the former Chivas USA and Houston Dynamo striker revealed he plans on being part of the big picture for Atlanta, which could eventually put him in direct competition with Martinez for minutes in 2021.
"[Atlanta is] a club that has shown it’s one of the biggest clubs in MLS, it’s already competing for championships, it’s already won a title in its second year of existence, and I’m a player who’s been at big clubs before, so I know the expectations, playing for Chivas, Cruz Azul," Torres said through an interpreter. "So I know what being at a big club comes with. But that’s one of the reasons why I came is because this is a club that is not only competing but constantly fighting for titles, and I want to be a part of that to help the team to do that. "
Happy and excited to be back for this new challenge!! I’m back with @mls!! 🇺🇸🔥💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻— Erick Torres. (@erickestefano15) August 1, 2020
Thank you @atlutd for trusting me and let’s go for another championship!!!!🏆🌟⚫️🔴#CuboIsBack🤖🇲🇽 #ATLUTD #UniteAndConquer🔴⚫️🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/1Ag0FCVzzi
Torres later continued: "I think this is a place that I’d like to be for a long time, so I’d like to show what I can do, to score goals and help the team to compete for these titles."
Torres, of course, is already a familiar face to MLS fans. Chivas originally farmed him out to Chivas USA, where he scored a career-best 16 goals during the 2014 campaign, and he followed a brief unproductive run at Cruz Azul with 14 MLS goals for the Dynamo in 2017, his third season there.
Each of those successful stretches resulted in brief call-ups for El Tri. And with many more Mexican players in the league now than in previous years — and former Atlanta manager Tata Martino in charge of El Tri — he doesn't believe his most recent lukewarm period at Club Tijuana closed a door to his international career.
"I think here that if I play well, if I’m focused, concentrated, putting in good performances, then that news will reach Mexico," Torres said. "Because I think things have changed, and you guys in the media know very well that there’s more eyes on MLS than I think ever before, the level of play and some of the quality Mexican players that are in the league. When I was with Houston, there were very few.
El Cubo is here 👋 pic.twitter.com/DwY9DX4cjy— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) August 12, 2020
"If I was able to get called up before to the national team when I was in MLS under managers like [Juan Carlos] Osorio and [Miguel] Herrera, then now surely with Tata being in charge, if I’m playing well and doing my best, then the news will definitely reach him as well."
The influx of Mexican talent to MLS might be the most obvious difference for Torres since he last played here. LAFC's Carlos Vela, the LA Galaxy's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Sporting Kansas City's Alan Pulido and Inter Miami's Rodolfo Pizarro have all arrived since his departure. New teammate Jurgen Damm also occupies that category.
And that shifting attitude is validation of a sort for Torres, who still thinks he could've been more of an impact player in Liga MX with a bit more faith from his coaches.
"That’s a question I’ve thought about a lot, is why I was able to have success in MLS compared to Mexico, and I think it’s due to the fact that as a player you get confidence in the rhythm when you’re playing consistently," he said. "In MLS I was able to have that opportunity and it gave me confidence. So I think it’s a matter of confidence and rhythm, and in Mexico I didn’t have as many opportunities."