Jose Torres: a man running out of chances for U.S.?

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The Jose Torres debate rages anew for U.S. Soccer supporters. Only the tenor of the conversation may be shifting slightly, for it sounds like U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann is running a little thin on patience.

One side of this discussion sees a man whose technically gifted ability to retain possession can help Klinsmann’s team play a better (and ultimately more successful) brand.

The other side sees a technically gifted young midfielder who has never quite connected the most important dots – the ability to turn all that smooth competence with the ball into something more useful at the international level.

Personally, I’m in the second camp. Yes, the Texas-born playmaker has some seriously silky skills in retaining the ball and moving it along (although not always into an appreciably better place). I appreciate all this – but to a point.

There is surely some value to that particular set of tools, especially in providing some midfield balance to the sharper edges around, like Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones. And yes, at age 24, there’s time for the Pachuca midfielder to mature, to demonstrate further progress.

Still, it’s frequently frustrating to watch Torres miss one opportunity after another to crank things up a bit, to doggedly spelunk for ways of being more influential in matches. Torres’ signature composure on the ball can be a poison or a cure, depending on the situation.

We saw it again in Mexico last month, where Torres managed to be calm on the ball to the point of being completely pointless in the evening. Truly, he was all but invisible out there.

It sounds like Klinsmann has just about seen enough, too. Torres was among the 24 men summoned into Miami, where training begins today for two World Cup qualifiers; the team leaves Wednesday for Kingston, where they’ll play in the capital city against Jamaica.

Here’s what Klinsmann, in typical candor, said Sunday about Torres and the increasing expectations on a young man who isn’t quite so young anymore:

Jose is, how can I describe the right way, he’s at a stage where he we would like to see him taking over more responsibility, taking over more control of the game, and also making more decisive passes or plays in a game. I think he has that quality, we believe so. He has the technique. He has the experience. He’s not a youngster anymore. He’s not Joe Corona’s age [recently turned 22]. He knows what it’s all about. The message is very simple that we gave to him Mexico: He’s needs to do more, and to have more influence on the game. He didn’t’ have that influence in the first half in Azteca Stadium, and that’s why we took him off.”

Klinsmann was asked if there’s a player he wants Torres to emulate:

I just want him to be himself. But I want him to be himself in terms of killer passes, maybe in finishing things off himself, or maybe going into the box and provoking or getting a penalty. Things that have influence on the outcome of the game … maybe a little more physicality in one-on-one battles. Those things he knows from us. We constantly talk about those elements. I don’t want him to copy anybody out there. He is his own person.”