He’s only 16, but Christian Torres believes in the value of hard work.
With injuries and other absences testing LAFC’s depth down the stretch of the season, Torres got a regular run in the lineup and ended up starting two games and playing in eight total in the regular season, scoring a memorable stoppage-time equalizer against the Portland Timbers to open his professional scoring account.
But back to hard work. Torres started playing soccer when he was around three, he said during a recent interview with Angels on Parade, and that ignited a passion in the sport, on and off the field.
“Growing up, my dad and I were huge Real Madrid fans,” Torres said. “Cristiano Ronaldo, my favorite player. He was kind of my role model. As I grew older, I noticed more about his game, aside from the work, from the way he shows on the TV, just his background to how he grew up to be where he is now, the work he’s put in, that type of thing.”
“Maybe when I was around nine or 10, that’s when I started to realize different things that they were performing on the pitch,” he continued. “The way they moved on the ball, the way they performed skills with the ball, the way they shot. A major thing that Ronaldo did specifically, the way he always does his stepovers. I used to practice those with my dad every day of the week. I would always try to replicate Ronaldo’s knuckleball, I’d watch tutorials, maybe like two hours a day, trying to perfect it, and it’s still not perfected to this day, but I think it got it down a little bit.”
Torres’ eye for detail has found a kindred spirit in LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.
“Every day we speak to Christian, in a way,” Bradley said after Torres’ first competitive goal in October. “In terms of his movement, trying to read situations a little bit quicker. I think he’s impressed everybody, he’s got still a good sense of timing, he’s a good finisher. I thought he took this chance really well.
“It’s a proud moment, to see a young player that has come through our academy score his first goal and score it at a time when we really needed it to get a tough point playing on the road.”
While the youngster is committed to putting in the work to get better, saying he often spends hours practicing beyond team training sessions, he admitted there was some natural talent at the very beginning of his soccer journey.
“When I barely learned how to walk I would always kick a ball and [my family] noticed that the way I kicked it, it was different than [most kids],” he said.
Playing AYSO soccer around his hometown of Fontana as a kid, Torres had been a member of the LA Galaxy academy by his mid-teens, and one day heard through the grapevine that LAFC academy director Todd Saldaña was interested in bringing him to the crosstown rival. A 15-year-old at the time, Torres said he thought about Saldaña’s offer for 10 minutes before accepting it.
U.S. Soccer Development Academy - Awards 2018-2019— Todd Saldaña (@SaldanaTsaldana) July 22, 2019
Coaching Staff of the Year - LAFC
Golden Ball - LAFC - Antonio Leone
Golden Boot - LAFC - Christian Torres
Fair Play - LAFC https://t.co/pUjZAmmQ8z
So far, that decision has turned out pretty well.
“I felt I’ve been working hard enough to possibly make my debut, but I did not expect to be playing this many minutes,” Torres admitted, about signing a pro deal in July and seeing real minutes with LAFC’s first team by October.
When he’s not playing in MLS games, Torres is a pretty normal teenager in a lot of ways, juggling his schoolwork, reading in his free time, playing video games like the “Call of Duty” series with friends, and making some time to play board games with his two younger sisters.
“For board games I try to not be too competitive with my sisters so they don’t get too mad at me or frustrated and they quit on me,” he said with a laugh.
As for the future, Torres has many goals in mind in his career. He hopes to play in the U-17 World Cup next year, if the tournament is held, of course, and the United States make it. He’s also eager to win MLS Cup and the Concacaf Champions League with LAFC this year. And he wants to score more goals, and improve as a player in the coming years.
The ultimate dream? For a kid who roots for Real Madrid, it’s not hard to guess.
“My dream is to play in Europe. Most of my dreams since I was a kid is to play for Real Madrid. It’s always a dream that my dad and I have shared with each other. And I would love to play there,” he said.
Given the rocket rise to his pro career so far, you probably shouldn’t bet against Christian Torres in the famous Merengues kit one day.
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