Of the players Jurgen Klinsmann called in for Wednesday's CONCACAF World Cup qualifying hexagonal opener against Honduras, Jose Francisco Torres' nine qualifying caps stand out. Torres played in five hex matches in 2009, and he started in the USA's World Cup group-stage match against Slovenia in 2010.
Even so, his inclusion in Klinsmann's squad was somewhat of a surprise after he was passed over the final two qualifiers of CONCACAF's semifinal round in October and then left out again for the USA's trip to Russia for a friendly in November.
Despite his unassuming, extensive international experience, a series of uneven performances in 2012 and an inability to lock down a foothold in Klinsmann's starting XI seemingly left the 25-year-old technically savvy Mexican-American on the outside looking in as other midfielders made headway.
A transfer from Pachuca, where he entered the youth program in 2003, to Tigres UANL for the Mexican Clausura campaign caught the attention of Klinsmann, though, who said that Torres was passed over for the final two qualifiers of CONCACAF's semifinal round in October because of an injury more than anything else. He is back in the fold with the matches containing the utmost importance again, and he is playing with a point to prove.
"We know Jose's qualities, we know his game," Klinsmann said. "I think the move from Pachuca to Tigres was another step upwards, helps him to get again to a higher level and also move out of his comfort zone, move out of a place where he kind of grew up and played for eight years there or something like that."
Now at a club like Tigres, which captured the 2011 Mexican Apertura title and won its 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League group to advance to the knockout stage (where his club will play against MLS' Seattle Sounders), Torres has shown to Klinsmann that he possesses the hunger to grow as a player by making a progressive move up the Liga MX ladder.
In his year and a half as U.S. manager, Klinsmann has proven to be a coach who is always pleading with his players to take the next step, no matter what has already been accomplished for club or country. By becoming a starter at a top Mexican club, one that currently sits atop the Liga MX table, Torres has aligned himself with Klinsmann's values and positioned himself to remain in the international picture once again after all.
"Now in a new environment, prove yourself, become a starter, and he started the season off really well," Klinsmann said. "He's a player that still has so much more to reach, and we help him in that process."
Follow AVI CREDITOR on Twitter
- Sports & Recreation
- Jurgen Klinsmann
- Jose Francisco Torres