I've gotten some interesting comments lately about Chivas USA striker Erick Torres from fans of the team. There seems to be a prevailing opinion among at least some fans that Torres is overrated and if he leaves after next month, it's not that big of a deal.
Sorry, but you're wrong.
I've been pretty vocal in my support of Cubo from the beginning, from when I said that his move to Chivas USA was a good risk for the team because he had more potential than any loanee ever sent to the club from Chivas de Guadalajara (possible exception is Paco Palencia, though he was more established when he joined Chivas USA in 2005). Maybe I have a blind spot when it comes to the true quality of Torres.
But Cubo's goal scoring rate is elite. The rule of thumb is that a striker who averages a goal every two games is very good. Torres has scored 15 goals in 25 MLS appearances. Right now, he's averaging a goal about every game and a half, for his career in this league. This season, he's averaging a goal every 105 minutes, or just over one a game. He is, without question, the most consistent scorer in MLS so far this season.
There's also the criticism that an inordinate amount of his goals have come from penalties. It's fair to question the scoring totals of players who take PKs, we all do it. I will, however, add some context into this discussion. Chivas USA were awarded two penalties in league play during the 2013 season prior to Cubo's arrival, and converted neither of them. Remember the times when Jose Correa and Edgar Mejia took their chances and whiffed? Chivas lost a point each in two matches because they couldn't convert PKs. For all the talk and expectations that penalties are just a matter of course, CUSA showed last year that they aren't a mere formality, they can be badly taken, and putting a confident player with the ability to actually convert those spot kicks is vitally important, lest more points get dropped.
And to my mind, much of the criticism I've heard regarding Cubo's shortcomings appears to actually be problems related to others. You don't think Cubo can play well alone up top? He doesn't have a choice in the matter, you know, and he's still scoring goals pretty frequently despite not being suited for the role. He doesn't tell the team, "Hey guys, I'm going to take care of the forward position singlehandedly," and Wilmer Cabrera and his teammates just nod in agreement. Cabrera puts him up there alone, out of necessity for covering the weak defense, one assumes, and probably also because he thinks Cubo can do a credible job. Look, I'd love to see some support for him at striker, too, since it stands to reason he'll probably score even more if he gets more help.
And if he's "hogging the ball," well, again, he's deployed in a certain style where he's being asked to take the lion's share of shots, and again, he's scoring at a more consistent pace than anyone in the league. Sure, you can criticize moments where he shoots and he might have been better off passing the ball or waiting for help, but on the whole, I don't get the sense he is tanking the rest of the brilliant attack in order to suck up all the goals.
What it comes down to, in my mind, is not recognizing how good of a player he really is.
Historically, Cubo is tied for third-most goals scored in regular season league play in team history. Here's the list ahead of him:
I realize his sample size is small, and that he likely can't maintain the same scoring pace if his appearances number approached any of these players, but if he played 70 games, barring injury, it seems like a good bet to say he would blow past Razov's record, doesn't it? I'll take that bet, certainly.
Here's how the goals numbers stack up this season for the team (and remember, this is the total list of players who've scored in league play this year):
|Name||Goals||Percent of CUSA's total goals scored|
Now, the question is whether Chivas USA need to keep him beyond June. I don't know, based on the figures above, he seems like a pretty integral part of the attack, regardless of whether the goals from the penalty spot or the run of play. I think there's no evidence to support the contention that, "Eh, he's not that great, Chivas will do fine without him." Chivas will suffer without him. Unless they find a real knack for scoring over the next six weeks, goals will almost entirely dry up. Have you forgotten what CUSA's scoring woes have been like the last...yep, it's been years and years since they had a really consistent scoring option.
If Cubo simply doesn't want to stay, or if he tries to use his good form to leverage the team to pay him an exorbitant amount or something, then Chivas USA may not be able to take advantage of his play beyond June. There's a solid chance he may leave anyway, regardless of how much the MLS team relies on him and wants him to stay.
I don't know, maybe the tide has turned for some regarding Torres as a self-defense mechanism, to swear off him before he goes and breaks your hearts. I suppose that makes sense, though it's kind of short-sighted as far as appreciating what he's doing right now.
But if you truly feel Cubo isn't all that, by all means, tell me who is better than him. Or better yet, tell me who's merely capable of scoring for this team. If he's currently on the team, great, and if not, then, we better sign that player ASAP. Either way, this team needs goals.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!