Chivas USA's MVP for the second season running, Erick Torres climbed to greater heights in his career in 2014.
The Mexican forward, entering his first full season with the Goats, reached a variety of benchmarks, both personal and team-oriented.
He led the team in scoring, again. His 15 goals broke Ante Razov's single-season scoring record for CUSA. He was also the team's first MLS All-Star since Dan Kennedy in 2012, and he helped set up a goal in the All-Stars' win over Bayern Munich.
Cubo also became the all-time leading scorer for a Mexican-born player in MLS, surpassing former Chicago Fire playmaker Cuauhtemoc Blanco. He was called up to the senior Mexican national team for the first time in the fall, and ended up scoring his first goal at senior level for his country. Following the season, he led an underage side to the gold medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games tournament, as joint-top scorer no less.
Put simply, Cubo's stock rose higher and higher in 2014, as he became a true breakout star around MLS, and completely carried his team during what turned out to be another difficult season, scoring more than half of the club's league goals overall. It was little wonder he became team MVP once again -- Chivas USA would have surely ended up in last place in MLS had he not been on the team.
Here were Cubo's statistics in 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||29||29||2,510||15||1||95||32||4||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||0||43||0||0||0||0||0||0|
It was obvious that Torres was an elite talent on his team, as he was both able to make use of the scraps of service he occasionally got from teammates, despite being the focal point of the Goats' attack, as well as make goals himself. He also, of course, scored all but one of Chivas' penalties on the season, something used early in the year as a criticism of his goal tally, but I find that criticism mostly invalid, especially considering their struggles to convert penalties in 2013 before Cubo's arrival. Yeah, scoring PKs is generally easier than scoring in the run of play, but PKs aren't automatic, and they all count the same within the game itself.
What made Cubo's exploits all the more remarkable was the fact that he managed to carry the load playing as the main striker (at times the only striker), though it seems like ideally he would make a killer support striker. And despite critiques that "all he could do" was score goals, he showed growth in his game over the course of the 2014 season as well. He didn't get credit with an assist, but he fully set up the Goats' final-ever goal, in the win against the San Jose Earthquakes, as he dribbled along the endline before cutting in and sending a tightly-angled shot in that Felix Borja pounced on to bury.
And unlike other situations where there's a star player who sets himself apart from his team, Cubo's teammates seemed to genuinely enjoy having him around and appeared to get along great with him. He may have been the star, but he remained down to earth, sneaking into Disneyland when he had spare time and attending English classes like the rest of his Spanish-speaking teammates.
For all of the bitterness with which Chivas USA fans are going to look back at the final seasons of the club, Cubo's play for a season and a half provides a highlight for all of the upheaval and eventual shuttering of the team. A team with constant turnover, in the front office, coach's chair, and roster, that failed to make the playoffs and was increasingly mismanaged, at least helped to resuscitate the career of a promising young forward. Cubo's prospects were buried by the time he was sent to Chivas USA on loan -- he leaves his stint with the club as one of the stars of the future.
After weeks of speculation about Torres' future, it was announced just before Christmas that he had signed a Designated Player deal with the Houston Dynamo, but would first go on loan to Chivas de Guadalajara. It was a rather-unorthodox arrangement, but this gives Cubo a chance to really prove himself again in Liga MX and with his original club, and to fulfill his promise to return to the team that brought him up, all while they are desperate to avoid relegation.
The Dynamo are getting a star striker who has already scored 22 goals in MLS, but who is still just 21 years old. If he can continue to progress, he should be very successful for Houston and get a move to Europe before too long -- he's that good.
It's going to be weird to see Cubo playing in MLS but not for Chivas USA, but there's nothing he could have done about the situation. Here's hoping he continues to build his resume and perhaps become one of the big stars. One thing's for certain: Cubo Torres goes down in Chivas USA lore as one of the club's all-time greats.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!