Erick Torres: "It's not like it used to be, when you could say that we were easily going to be champions"
To experience the honeymoon-like atmosphere that characterizes the MLS, the Mexican Erick 'Cubo' Torres had to go through difficult times, even facing the possibility of not playing again.
During his 7-year professional career, Erick Torres has worn several uniforms, maybe too many considering he’s only 24 years old. Born in Chivas, Rayadas de Guadalajara, one of the so-called “factories of Mexican soccer players”, he played for Chivas de Guadalajara, Chivas USA, Cruz Azul and the Houston Dynamo on two different occasions. But it’s his second stint in Houston where he has been able to become a goal-scoring machine for the Dynamo, the basic necessity for a center forward.
I have rediscovered the level of play I showed at Chivas de Guadalajara and Chivas USA
His career took off at the tender age of 17, when he was already playing in the first team of Chivas de Guadalajara, barely out of the adolescent phase of his life. There he not only trained as a player but as a person, going from public schools to study to the club’s school, Educare, where, besides the basic subjects, he took yoga and swimming classes. In fact, swimming was one of his passions and he once thought of taking it seriously, but in the end he decided to play football. While maturing at Chivas he got advice from three players, strikers like him who were key in his development: Javier 'Chicharito' Hernández, Omar Bravo and Adolfo Bautista. He even trained with Chicharito, who plays today for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany.
But ‘Cubo’ has an interesting story, starting with his nickname, which he got when he was 12 years old and that he used to hate. They don’t call him that for a lack of skill because his talent is apparent before he even touches the ball, but because people teased him for the shape of his head, completely rectangular, like a cube, a product of the haircut that he had. Today, it’s his calling card and he cannot imagine being called something else.
|He went from seeing no way out and getting no chances to feeling like Houston was his second home.|
Although he had everything he needed to succeed from an early age, something prevented him from staying with a single team. At 20, he was loaned to Chivas USA, but when the team disappeared, he returned to Guadalajara, also on loan since his rights belonged to the MLS. During the year that he was away from home, Torres played little and scored less. Before, life smiled, and he became a stronger player at Chivas, passing through all the divisions of the Mexican national team. His highest point came in the Youth World Cup in Colombia in 2011, where he put in one of the three goals that Mexico scored to eliminate the host country in the quarterfinals: "Never in my life have I heard a stadium so quiet, it was as if everyone had left."
At the end of 2015, he returned to the MLS, not in California but rather in Texas. Houston acquired him, but what should’ve been his takeoff point became another obstacle on his road to success. Failing to fit in with Scotland's Owen Coyle and his successor, Waden Barret, Torres was loaned out again, this time for six months to Cruz Azul, but not even a return to his home country made Erick find his way to his promised stardom. The 'Machine' arrived to a team that was already strong, which, added to the short loan time, deprived him of opportunities.
"The coach told me straight: Erick, things are tense, but you're going to have a chance with me. I know you, I trust you. "
Then several things happened. First, Houston changed managers, appointing the Colombian Wilmer Cabrera, who arrived from Rio Grande Valley, an affiliate of the Dynamo. Since life is a chain of opportunities, the Colombian coach personally communicated with 'Cubo', who was 23 at the time. The message could not be more clear: "The coach told me straight: Erick, things are tense, but you're going to have a chance with me. I know you, I trust you. But there is competition here and I am going to choose players who want to succeed. If you don’t give it your all this season, you’ll be toeing the thin line between being a player that people forget about and continuing to grow.”
The warning was a wake-up call for Torres: "From that day I trained very hard, I felt it was a new beginning. I felt the trust of my coach and, truth be told, from that day things have only been getting better. I have rediscovered the level of play I showed in Chivas de Guadalajara and Chivas USA, and I am showing off all my skills again." Erick could not have taken Cabrera’s challenge more seriously. Not only did he return to training with the zeal of someone who just started in football, but he also changed his diet. He gave up soda, desserts and packaged food, as well as gluten. Immediately he lost 11 pounds, and gained strength and speed. The result? He became a permanent fixture for the Dynamo, resulting in nine goals in the first eleven matches of the season. Today the team that plays at the local BBVA Compass Stadium fights the favorites in the Western Conference. In each game, the audience chants Torres' nickname and imitates his already well-known robot celebration, which imitates one of his hobbies, soccer video games like FIFA.
Today his life is like something out of a fairytale. He went from seeing no way out and getting no chances to feeling like Houston was his second home. His first home, Guadalajara, is two hours away by plane, so any time he can, he leaves Houston to be with his parents, his brothers, his childhood friends and Brandon, his pet Schnauzer that, at 15, cannot travel by plane. If Erick does not go to Guadalajara, his family flies to be with him and when neither happens he lives in Houston with confidence. ‘Cubo’ likes to watch Astros and Rockets games, go to museums and walks or rides his folding bike through Hermann Park, in the city center, near his home. If he had to give tourists some recommendations, he wouldn’t think twice about it: the Holocaust Museum and the NASA Space Center.
For 'Cubo', people notice his happiness, as well as his good form. That's why he was called to replace Alan Pulido on the Gold Cup roster.
He knows that the call to the National Team means a second chance, a chance he already had at the club level, and only he can take the opportunity as far as he can go. Erick already knows what it is like to go through all the youth teams and it’s clear to him the fight for a position in the senior team requires something more.
"All the tournaments that Mexico’s in have very competitive games. It isn’t like before when you could say that we were easily going to be champions. The gap in competition has been reduced. The group stage against El Salvador, Jamaica and Curaçao will be complicated, I hope we can come and play. You have to go game by game until the end." Erick has already convinced the coaching staff of the Dynamo that he belongs and he’s fallen in love with the people in Houston. Now he hopes to do the same for the Mexican National Team. His dream, like anyone else's, is to be a prophet in his own land.