Torres making waves in Reserve League starts
Roger Torres is doing what it takes to get back into the regular rotation for the Philadelphia Union.
Torres hasn’t seen any time in Philly’s last four games, but the 20-year-old Colombian playmaker made the most of his opportunity in the Union’s Reserve League contest on Monday at Gillette Stadium.
Despite the Union dropping a 3-1 decision to New England, Torres had an electric performance for Philly, controlling the pace in the offensive third and scoring the club’s only goal on a penalty kick after drawing a foul in the box.
“The bright spot for us was Roger Torres in both halves,” Philly’s Reserve Team coach Brendan Burke told MLSsoccer.com. “His work rate was good, he had ideas and he was creative. He looked liked a player who was pushing to get into the first team.”
Burke, whose team fell to 1-3-1 with the result, hasn’t won since the season opener.
“We had a handful of players that didn’t look they were pushing to get into the first team for us,” he added with a bit of frustration.
While having a good record isn’t especially important in the Reserve League, Burke knows the games are still crucial for player development. And because the Union have a deep team loaded with young talent, he hasn’t been pleased that the Reserve team has been outscored 7-2 in their last two outings.
“It’s not at all about results; it’s about preparing guys for the next step,” Burke said. “It’s very encouraging for guys like Roger. Kyle Nakazawa played in our last reserve game and then he started the last two games with the first team and has done very well. I only hope Roger is rewarded like that.”
According to Burke, the play of Torres was one of the few bright spots Monday, although the coach was also encouraged to see Amobi Okugo put in some work. Okugo was a fixture in the lineup before spraining his ankle in May, and although he’s now completely healthy, the central midfielder hasn’t played much since returning from the injury.
The Union also got strong efforts from academy players Jimmy McLaughlin, Keegan Rosenberry and Darius Madison, while starting two trialists — Matt Baker and Brian Ackley. Baker, a defender, currently plays for Union affiliate Reading United AC, while Ackley, a striker, starred at Indiana University before playing professionally in the Czech Republic.
Whether it’s a first-teamer, an academy player or a trialist, Burke hopes every player who takes the field in these Reserve League games recognizes that it represents the best path to the first team.
“This is an excellent opportunity to stay match fit and deal with situations in a match — things that running around on a track aren’t going to help with,” Burke noted. “These are really awesome opportunities.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsocccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.