By now, you've probably heard that Jose Francisco Torres has decided to play with the US national team. Torres was among the 23 players called into camp by Bob Bradley ahead of the next pair of World Cup qualifiers. Actually, he'll be with the US for the match against Cuba on Oct. 11 and, my guess, he'll be part of the team that goes to Trinidad should the US take care of business at RFK.
Now, Torres is a talented player. You don't get significant playing time for a club like Pachuca without talent, after all. But this decision by Torres is really a coup in more ways than one.
Sure, Torres' presence on the left side gives the US another option, a young option who could develop into a talented first-choice player in the near future. Pachuca, after all, has produced several quality players in recent history and Torres stands to be another in the increasingly long list of national team caliber players that come from Tuzo-land.
But more important than his potential is his background. Although born and bred in Texas, Torres could have chosen to bide his time and wait to play for Mexico. Just a week ago, I was among a small group talking to FMF honcho Guillermo Cantu about this very subject. When asked about the potential for players like Torres to follow in the footsteps of Edgar Castillo, who chose Mexico over his birth nation, Cantu had a very valid point. He said Mexicans were very proud, and the allure of Mexico was strong even for Mexicans born here.
I can attest to that a bit. I've lived twice in my life in Mexico, when I was 18 and then when I was almost 30. And I hope in the future to be able to retire there or spend a lot of time there... well, either there or somewhere in the Caribbean, but that's neither here nor there...
Regardless, Torres could have spurned Bradley again and stayed with his club team and nobody would have thought any worse than they had before. Well, perhaps the US might have felt a bit turned back by it but he wouldn't be the first player to spurn the US lately, would he?
If that would have happened, Michael Orozco would have looked like a fluke. Orozco, of course, chose the US over Mexico when he agreed to play for the US Under-23 national team, which led to a spot in the Olympics and then call-ups to the senior national team as well. That would have looked like a case of a player not good enough to play for the team with more depth and instead going to the US simply because it was either that or nothing.
Instead, it looks like the allure Cantu talked about only went so far in this case. Perhaps Orozco and Torres felt their chances were better off professionally in another country, whose soccer is far more developed than it is here in the United States. But when it came down to it, it looks as if wanting to represent their birth country and defending their colors was also important, if not the aspect that sealed the deal.
There's hope. For the US, there is hope that someday, possibly sooner than many had anticipated, the US national team can tap into the vast wealth of talent that is the Mexican-American well.
Who knows how many players out there are as good as or better than Torres, Orozco or Castillo? But they're out there, playing with friends after school, trying their fate with a club team perhaps, maybe playing AYSO. They're 12, 13, 14 years old, possibly younger, hoping to make it as a pro one day.
And now when they look at their birth nation, the United States, and its national team, they will see some familiar names, names that they can relate to. And perhaps then Torres and Orozco will become some sort of role model, trailblazers if you will, and show that the allure to stay home is also a strong one too.