"What would you do?" Erick "El Cubo" Torres asked me a few weeks ago when we ran into each other after an interview on the program "Nación ESPN." The question was posed right in the middle of a cut, when the studio lights were down and people were speaking in hushed tones.
On Sunday, Torres scored his first goal on the senior Mexican national team and is wrapping up a club season in the United States, where he has once again been a regular scorer and the great player that he once seemed destined to be. The question that the 21-year-old is mulling is clear: Go back to Mexico to Chivas, or stay in MLS, where there will be various recruitment offers once Chivas USA disappears at the end of the season?
The media in Guadalajara at the beginning of this week reported that Chivas' new club president, Néstor de la Torre, held a series of meetings with the player to ask him what plans he had in mind. Torres is under contract with Chivas, but there are several details in the contract that could leave him in the United States. MLS, which included him in its All-Star Game, could make Chivas owner Jorge Vergara a direct offer.
But the real question is exactly what "El Cubo" asked me: What should he do?
Torres was sent into exile by Chivas after experiencing, undoubtedly, the pressure that Chivas' then-emerging crisis was already bringing to bear on the players who had come up through the club's ranks. Torres was forced to push the limits of his performance even though his career was just starting to take shape. He was a victim of what Guadalajara began to suffer on the field. Unlike other players who, as Chivas USA unraveled, came to Los Angeles to vanish for good, Torres rose to the challenge: He holed up in a hotel room in Torrance, beside Interstate 405, and then devoted himself to playing and perfecting everything he learned in the lower ranks of Chivas. He scored 21 goals in 40 MLS games and one-and-a-half seasons.
Today, making a decision is not easy. Torres is disciplined, hardworking, noble, honest. Chivas would do well to make an effort to get him back, but playing in MLS and from there seeking a career that builds toward the European leagues isn't a bad idea, either. Torres agrees: Returning to Chivas now would come with extra pressure. They will surely ask or demand of him the goals that haven't been scored, but at the same time it would be a trial that could finish defining him as the great forward that Mexican soccer hopes he will be. Still, remaining in MLS is a solid and interesting option.
A few figures that could be illuminating: Torres earns about $152,000 per year as a player in MLS, and Chivas would set a price tag for him of about $7 million.
The difference between Torres and other players is that he finally accepted the challenge of triumphing in MLS. "El Cubo" saw soccer in the U.S. as an opportunity to get back to his highest level and not as a punishment for what happened with Chivas.
After he asked me the question, I had to think it over for a moment. My response was: "Do what you have to do, but don't miss out on this marvelous opportunity."
And "El Cubo" understood, I'm sure he understood...