Mexican-American midfielder Jose Torres has only one regret about choosing to give up his dream of playing for El Tri to join the U.S. national team: that he didn’t make the decision sooner.
Torres was called to the U.S. Olympic team in 2008, but didn’t appear for the U.S. in the Beijing Games. The story making the rounds for some time was that Torres had stayed behind that summer to win a first team spot at Pachuca – something he did successfully – but the rumor in Mexico has always been that Torres was awaiting a call for El Tri.
That second version turns out to be the case, Torres affirmed on Tuesday at the U.S. team hotel, ahead of Wednesday night’s showdown with El Tri at El Azteca.
“I had the chance to go to the U.S. before, because I got the call-up,” the midfielder said. “The U.S. called me up for the Olympics, and I denied it because I wanted to play for Mexico. That was in 2008.”
But the decision was short-lived, as the U.S. proved persistent. The call from El Tri never came, and when then U.S. skipper Bob Bradley dialed him up late in 2009 for a pair of World Cup qualifiers, Torres accepted.
“The last shot came up in 2009,” Torres said. “Bob Bradley called me up again, and I was like ‘to heck with this, I’m taking my chance.’”
It’s a decision that Torres has never regretted. Looking back, though, he says he wishes he had made the choice sooner.
“I regret not going to the Olympics,” he said. “Because I just saw with this last one, that it’s something everyone wants to play in, everyone wants to be in. I do regret not going, and hopefully along the road there’s another opportunity to play.”
For the Pachuca native, the challenge has now become establishing himself with the American national team, and continuing to feature at the club level, where he is still a regular under new Pachuca coach Hugo Sanchez.
As for the national team, Torres didn’t get to play in the Olympics, but did make the U.S. World Cup squad two years later, traveling to South Africa with Bradley’s squad.
“That’s the only thing that was on my mind, if I didn’t go to the Olympics I had one more shot to make it to the World Cup,” he said. “And I had to work hard, and thank God I made it to the World Cup.”
Despite the relative success, Torres and the other Mexican-Americans on the U.S. national team have been somewhat discounted in Mexico, where the general agreement is that none would have a role on El Tri if available. But Torres doesn’t put much stock in those types of comparisons.
“It’s just motivation,” he said. “It’s part of football, and we’re on the national team for a reason.”
The “good enough for El Tri” debate may continue for some time, as Torres figures to feature prominently for the U.S. going forward. After the 2010 World Cup, the midfielder seemed to fall out of favor with Bob Bradley. But with the reigns of the U.S. national team having changed hands, Torres is once again squarely in the picture under Jurgen Klinsmann.
Well on his way to another World Cup, there’s little for Torres to regret about his national team decision, except maybe the timing.
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