Torres reflects on storied career in Mexico, dual national recruiting, to Switchbacks future
December 15, 2020
LAST MONTH, Jose Francisco Torres made a low-key signing when he put pen to paper and agreed to terms with the Colorado Switchbacks in the USL. While he has not been on the minds of American fans for years, his career is remarkable both in the impressive amount silverware he has won while also having been involved with many aspects of the game that are still very relevant in 2020 – such as dual national recruiting and the United States – Mexico rivalry.
Younger American fans might not remember it, but Torres was once the subject of a huge dual national recruiting battle between the United States and Mexico. Born in Longview, Texas, Torres developed in Mexico and made impressive strides at a young age with Pachuca.
After he turned the United States down for the Olympics in 2008, he eventually went on to decide to play for the U.S. team – where he made the 2010 World Cup team. When Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach in 2011, he wanted Torres heavily involved. He was part of the 2013 Gold Cup winning team.
His club career, however, is full of accomplishments. Spending it mostly between two of Mexico’s biggest clubs in Pachuca and UNAL Tigres, Torres was on the roster for the following
- Four different Liga Mx winners
- Three CONCACAF Champions League winners
- One Copa MX winner
- One Copa Sudamericana winner
- Two Campeón de Campeones winners
He also participated in prestigious tournaments such as the Club World Cup and the Copa Libertadores.
In 2019, Torres elected to take time off from the game and spend it with his family. While he was unsure of what would come next, opportunity eventually arouse back in the United States – where he was born and raised.
Agreeing to terms with the Colorado Switchbacks in November, Torres will restart his career in 2021 for the first time outside of Mexico.
ASN spoke to Torres from Mexico about his career from playing in World Cup, to winning titles. But we also we touched upon his history of being involved in a dual national recruiting battle to the U.S. – Mexico rivalry.
Brian Sciaretta for ASN: How did everything happen to get you to Colorado?
Jose Francisco Torres: It was something that I've always wanted - to come back and play in the States. I just never had the chance to. Basically, most of my career was here in Mexico playing for two big club teams in Pachuca and Tigres. It was just so difficult to leave the teams at the time because we had a great level and I guess they wanted all the players to stay. So it was real difficult for me to leave to the States. And after that, it was a long story. I decided to take time off and spend it with my family. But this opportunity came out and I want to take it to go back
ASN: Did they recruit you or did they find you or was it was it do you have an agent who was who is who's out there?
Torres: Was it was pretty crazy because I was moving myself. I didn't have an agent at the time. So, all the contacts that I had, I used and my brother played with [Switchbacks assistant] Kyle Timm at [Tyler Junior College] in Texas. I had a tryout with [DC United] and at the time they wanted to to stay. But I was at Tigres, wanted money for me....DC didn't work out and I got a hold of Kyle Timm and Alan Koch, the head coach at the time, and he was like, why don't you come out? We want to look at you and see how you fit in and everything. And that's basically what happened.
ASN: I know you said you had a trial with DC United but were there any other times in the middle of your career when MLS was an option?
Torres: That's what I wanted when I was here in Mexico. There was a point where I wanted to come to the states and play anywhere, any team. I just wanted to come back and be closer to where I was born in Texas - and so my kids, who are American citizens, can go to school here and live a different life. It just never worked out.
ASN: And then what were you obviously accomplished a lot in Mexico. There are ups and downs but what were your favorite moments?
Torres: It's been a long road. I've accomplished a lot. From when I was maybe 19 to 23, everything just started coming at me so fast - a lot of championships, a World Cup, World Club championships - a lot just started coming my way. And I was like: God is great, I've to take advantage of these opportunities and the great team that I'm at right now. But there's a lot of great memories: World Cup 2010, the World Club Championships, 2000, 2009 and 2007, I think. So there's a lot of memories.
ASN: Back in 2007 and 2008 there was a lot of discussion of what country you're going to represent. Now that it is pretty far in the past. What was it like to be part of like having two countries push for your services and looking back on that, was that a tough decision?
Torres: Yeah, it was really, really difficult, because basically I was starting my career in Mexico, my mom is American. So, it was it was a tough choice. And I think at the end of the day, I made the right decision because I knew the states was going to keep giving me chances - if I was at a great level, they'd keep calling me in. And I knew sometimes in Mexico, it was just maybe you play one or two games and it was over for you. That was my thought. And a few guys on my team, experienced players, they told me, you have to make your choice now because it's almost time for the World Cup and you have a chance to make it. So they helped me out a lot. And it was my coach and like five other experienced guys that helped me out.
ASN: And were they trying to lobby for Mexico or were they telling yout to really consider the United States?
Torres: They were telling me to go for the states. They knew how in Mexico, how everything works out. So they they told me if you have a great chance with the states, they're going to keep calling you if you're playing well. So just make the right decision. It's up to you. We're just trying to help you out. I think I made the right call.
ASN: And was there a lot of family pressure or was there a lot of pressure from others sources?
Torres: Not at all. My family told me they were going to support me either way I went. So that was a great thing, I think the pressure came when people started finding out that I had to make a choice and there were a lot of people in the media and the guy who was scouting me called me and he told me he was going to have Cuauhtemoc Blanco call me and I should go for Mexico. So in that way, I had a little bit of pressure. But my mind was already made up. I had already missed the Olympic Games. So I was like, the hell with this, I'm going to the states. And that's my mind's made up. I'm a man of my word so I told [Blanco] I was going with the states and I don't regret it.
ASN: I know the U.S. wanted you for the Olympics in 2008. That must have been tough to turn down, right?
Torres: At the time, I was undecided because it just came so quickly. I figured I won't play in the Olympics and then watch it all for you a year but it just hit me so hard. They wanted me for the Olympics but I told them I'm gonna take my time and decide and I told them no at the time. And then when Bob Bradley called me, I was like, you know what? I can't turn this down. It's important
ASN: There are a lot of good young Mexican-American players now, too. Richie Ledezma is playing for the United States. Efra Alvarez is playing for Mexico but recently appeared with the U.S. team. When you look at these kids having to go through the same decisions, do you look back and see yourself? Are you reminded of what you went through or do you think it's different now?
Torres: I think they go to the same thing. It's a lot of pressure because Alvarez plays here in the states and has Mexican parents...It's mind game and you don't know what to do at the time. That's when you have to really sit with your family and decide what you want because it's your future, not your parents' future, it's your future... Whoever his family or friends, they have to respect what he wants because it's his future. I think it's tough on the guys that are Mexican-American but at the time, we have to respect what the player wants.
ASN: You managed to make the World Cup team in 2010. Discuss that environment and getting to play with some of the best American players ever in their prime years.
Torres: I still remember when the roster was coming out and everybody wanted to make the roster. And I was like, I have to work twice as hard. I'm here now. It's what I've always wanted to do. I have a chance to play in a World Cup. I had to work hard and learn throughout the qualifiers about how my teammates move, how they want the ball. So it was a good experience and it's something that I accomplished at a young age. It was great.
ASN: Over half of your caps came after the 2010 World Cup because Jurgen Klinsmann wanted you heavily involved with the start of his tenure. Discuss like that transition and what it was like to be part of the start of Klinsmann's effort to rebuild the team.
Torres: It was a great experience. I thought I could make it to the 2014 World Cup. But a few injuries started coming my way and things started to not go well. But the experience I had with Jurgen was great. We were playing international games left and right. We were playing really great teams. And from there I was at a high level. I think he came to the States to try to change the game. From his experience, he played at a high level, won a World Cup. He brought a lot of experience to the national team. He brought a great energy. It was just great working with him. I I learned a lot throughout the years with him and I earned a lot more caps with him than before the 2010 World Cup.
ASN: You have a good perspective on the on the soccer rivalry that exists between the United States and Mexico. How intense was it back then before 2010 and then where do you think it is now How has it perceived in Mexico over the years?
Torres: In Mexico, it's a big rival. In CONCACACF, it's the two biggest national teams that fight for the first and second places. I got to play in two the games and I enjoyed it. I knew most of the guys on the [Mexican] team and I could help my teammates - tell them how they play. Throughout the years, I think the rivalry is getting bigger and bigger.
ASN: You've been away for it for years now but do you still follow the US team and the younger generation of players?
Torres: I still follow them. It is a very, very young team. I saw Weston McKennie's big goal against Barcelona. It's a young team and they're doing a great things. They're still getting to know each other. So I think for the World Cup qualifying, they will know each other very well. They're progressing great for when the World Cup comes.
ASN: In 2021 you're set to play for the first time with the Switchbacks. What are your goals right now for this endeavor in your career?
Torres: I signed my contract when Alan Koch was still the coach and then I found out that he was leaving due to family reasons. And I told him when I was there that if I sign here, my mindset is to play six months here, work hard, get back on the grind. And from there, move to an MLS team if I can. That's my mindset in a year and that's what I want. Play six months in Colorado Springs, then, if an MLS team wants me, fine. If not, I'll stick with the Switchbacks. With the years I have left in my career, it is to enjoy - so my son can see the game. He likes to play, he's three years old. That's another reason why I did it. So, I could show him the game. So this year is to enjoy and my son can see me play. But if something more comes, it is more than welcome.
ASN: And while you have MLS ambitions but have played for some of the biggest clubs in Mexico, what is the perception of the league among players.
Torres: It's not a rival, but everybody here in Mexico now respects the league because there's a lot of talent and they're bringing in a lot of European players, so it is really competitive. And now when teams from Mexico play teams from the states, sometimes it used to be easy. Now it's way different. There's a big difference from a few years back to now. So the teams in Mexico respect the teams in the states now.
ASN: You are coming off a year away from the game. Why was that?
Torres: I had another contract but I just wanted to spend more time with my family because throughout our career we're players, we get hurt. I guess your mindset changes if you have a family. I was going at it for 14 years straight and there was something in my head like, you know what? Spend time with your family, enjoy it because you never know when it's our time to go... I also knew I had something else left in me and then this opportunity came. I thank God I have a second chance. Now I am getting ready to go at it.
ASN: Did you ever think of what you wanted to do after your playing career? Do you want to stay involved with the sport?
Torres: I am starting to take the coaching license courses. I also want to prepare kids and watch them grow and see them make it to the league. That's what I want - and I want to watch my son. If he likes the game. I want to coach him and show him what I've learned over the years. So if I could coach younger guys and teach my son what I know and watch him grow and make it to the league, that that'd make me happy. That's what I really want to do.