Gringo Abroad (Retrospective): Jose Torres

Jose Francisco Torres

Pachuca 1 – Morelia 0

Primera División Mar-27-2010

If any US player is a mascot for Fútbol for Gringos, it’s Jose Francisco Torres.  The Texas native plays his club soccer for Mexico’s Pachuca.  His nickname? El Gringo.

Towards the end of March Torres and Pachuca played a match that demonstrated Torres’ growing importance for the USMNT.

Match Summary and American Performance

Both halves, particularly the first 30 minutes of the first, were dominated by Pachuca, and they were rewarded with a Damian Manso goal in the 35th minute.

And a big reason for that dominance was Torres.  He spent most of the game doing what a center midfielder is supposed to do – control the pace of play. In the first half, before Pachuca went on top, Torres sought to push the tempo with short, quick passes. In the second 45, he spent more time in defense and appeared to be trying to maintain possession, preventing Morelia from seeing a lot of the ball, though that’s not to say that he didn’t play defense in the first half or push forward in the second. One of his most intelligent passes, in fact, occurred in the 58th – a perfectly angled delivery guided a Pachuca forward the into penalty area and led to a shot that the keeper was forced to push wide.

His performance was not all roses, however. Torres was unable to prevent a dangerous cross in the 15th (though he had admirably dropped back to right back to provide cover for an out of position teammate) and had a number of poor passes and touches go straight to Morelia, notably in the 55th when he gave up possession just outside Pachuca’s penalty area.

He was subbed out in the 70th after picking up a minor injury.

National Team Implications

While the Longview, TX native may not have had a perfect match, his play showed better ball control and vision than other USMNT center midfield candidates.  Presumed starters Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu are not offensive slouches, but Torres is more composed than either when in possession.

One of the most challenging aspects of USMNT manager Bob Bradley’s job is to rate player performance in different leagues. For example, when attempting to ascertain who should start as a center midfielder, should Bradley rate Torre’s performance as a starter in a league not noted for its defensive intensity higher than Edu’s substitute role in a division (the Scottish Premier League) noted for its physical play?

Torres often displays silky passing and clever dribbling, but Bradley may believe Jose does not yet offer quite enough offensive firepower to make up for his defensive liabilities. Torres certainly works hard to help his defenders, but his small size means he can’t outmuscle attackers on the occasions when his positioning isn’t perfect.

The starting center mids at the World Cup will most likely be Bradley the Younger and Edu.  Bob Bradley’s first-choice center midfielders are normally physical players, and Edu and Michael Bradley fit the bill.  Torres, in fact, might not even be the first midfielder off the bench.  Benny Feilhaber, who has much more international experience than the Texan, has recovered from a recent injury and should be the first center midfield sub.  That’s not to say Torres won’t have a role in South Africa – all teams can use a skilled midfielder on the bench.  His excellent technical ability could be useful to ignite a comeback or protect a lead.  His manager, and all US fans, will hope he’s needed more often for the latter.

http://www.ussoccer.com/Teams/MNT/F/Benny-Feilhaber.aspx
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