After Chivas USA became mired in what seemed like an endless winless streak in 2013, the team needed hope. Two players, Carlos Bocanegra and Erick Torres, picked up the team after their arrival in July. While Bocanegra's play had its fans and detractors, Torres quickly became the best addition the team made in 2013, period.
Scoring in his first two appearances with the club after arriving on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara, the 20-year-old ran away with the team's scoring title, notching seven goals on the season, an average of a goal every 2.14 games, which is a good rate.
After Juan Agudelo's trade to the New England Revolution in May, Chivas had basically no forwards capable of scoring on any regular basis. When Cubo arrived, the nonexistent attack returned to life. The contrast was stark. Frankly, Chivas hadn't had such a productive forward since Ante Razov, and it showed when Torres played. The Goats had a finisher again, finally.
He scored his goals in various ways, with the most spectacular being his bicycle kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps in September. But despite playing less than half of the team's regular season matches, he had a clear edge in total shots on the team, demonstrating his aggression, something that had not been present on the team in several years.
Able to play alone up top, which he had to do frequently in Jose Luis Real's preferred formation, as well as paired up with a striker, Cubo showed talent, drive, and soccer IQ that was exciting to watch. And his goals were important -- six of his seven goals came in wins or draws for Chivas, and he had a hand in picking up 10 of the 12 points the team earned while he was on the field. And he started each game he was eligible for in 2013.
Put simply, he was a star in his time with the Amerigoats.
Here are Torres' statistics with Chivas USA in 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||15||15||1,349||7||1||45||21||3||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
If we are grading on the Chivas USA curve, there's not much to be criticize regarding Torres' season. But in a general sense, there is a concern that opponents figured out how to stop Cubo late in the season, as he didn't score in his final six games, five of which were losses. There are suspicions that a similar trend happened in Mexico, as he started his Chivas de Guadalajara career hot before losing his form and falling out of the matchday squad by 2013. If his roll was slowed within 10 games in MLS, then he could just be a flash in the pan, no matter how much promise he shows.
I think it is far too early to come to that conclusion, however. Cubo linked up well with some of his teammates, but the team still lacked players able to provide consistent service to the attacking weapons, i.e. Torres. Chivas scored 30 goals during the 2013 MLS season, so Cubo scored nearly a quarter of the total. Though he did receive more attention from opposing defenses as his scoring exploits grew, there's no reason to believe he can't continue to grow as a player and reach double digits in scoring in a full season in the league. For all the complaints about Cubo "disappearing" late in the season, it seemed like the whole group disappeared, frankly. A lone soul can only do so much to turn the tide.
As a result, Cubo's 2013 with Chivas USA has to be considered a success. He showed there's a fair amount of production behind the potential, and he has to be considered the only loanee from Chivas de Guadalajara who fully shrugged off the "Chivas reject" tag. If the two clubs are going to remain close moving forward, let's hope more players of Torres' caliber are sent to Chivas USA.
There has been no official confirmation Torres is staying with Chivas USA for the 2014 season, although he remains on the team's official website. Add to that Chivas de Guadalajara starting their Liga MX campaign this week without Torres involved and signs point to him remaining in California. However, I still wouldn't say it is guaranteed, as Mexican clubs can add players to their rosters at this point.
Certainly, it looks like playing another season would benefit both player and club(s). Torres would get regular game action and an opportunity to try and shake the perceptions that he can't produce over the long term. Chivas USA would most likely get more out of having Torres around from the start of the season, and Chivas de Guadalajara could track Cubo's progress in MLS and see if he might be ready to come back to Mexico. If he had a really good 2014 season, I am sure he would be recalled to Guadalajara unless that club had an embarrassment of riches at the striker position. But even another season would be a bonus for Chivas USA, as a player who proved to be a game changer in 2013 could have a chance to further build his legend in MLS.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!