Sunday, June 17, 2012

El Gringo, El Nino y La Pulga: Thoughts on Jose Torres, Fernando Torres and Lionel Messi

photo by jebbvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott is in a Spanish speaking state of mind as he tackles the USMNT, Euro 2012, and even Lionel Messi's nickname:

Watching the USA vs. Antigua & Barbuda game last week, I was surprised to see Jose Torres at left back.  Even more surprising was to hear what the Mexican announcer kept calling him - El Gringo. I love it - a slur turned affectionate nickname!  Torres has embraced the nickname and so have a legion of female Pachuca fans who have dubbed themselves "Mexicanas Muy Gringas."  It fits - he was born in Texas to a Mexican father and American mother, then moved to Mexico at age 16 to play with the Pachuca youth team before rising through the ranks and now starring for that senior team.  With family in the US but living and playing in Mexico (and now married to a local Pachuca girl), he is quintessentially Mexican-American.  He was spared having to decide between the US and Mexican national teams as the Americans came calling and, although he was on the Mexican team's radar, they never did.  He is what made America and I'm proud to have him on our team.

Personally, I like Torres as a playmaker and like seeing him in the lineup.  I'm unconvinced about him on defense though - his forays forward were dangerous but ultimately led to crosses rather than through balls.  I like his vision for through balls but his crosses need some work.  And, defensively, he was a liability at times.  Nice experiment but get El Gringo in the midfield, Jurgen.

The USA team is still a work in progress. While they are on the path to "win at home and draw away" qualifying success, more is now expected from a nation of over 300 million people where the excuse of soccer not being the main sport is losing its relevance with each passing year. Especially with Southern neighbors kicking it up a notch as Giovanni Dos Santos and Chicharito have started to hit stride and vanquish the likes of Brazil. Some may not like the USA's 28th place FIFA ranking but it's pretty accurate.  We are top 20 at best and more likely top 25 right now.  But with that Klinsmann magic, who knows?

Another Torres, Fernando that is, needs more time on the field, both for club and country.  It is criminal how this peaking talent moved to Chelsea and has plummeted in form.  I still say he is getting his mojo back (despite his misses against Italy) and just needs more playing time as a starter to recapture his magic.  As I'm typing this I see he just scored a brace against Ireland.  Bravo, El Nino!

Lionel Messi's nickname is, apparently, La Pulga.  While being called "the flea" can't be that good, he really is. Messi's hat-trick performance against a motivated Brazil on neutral ground was extraordinary and his third goal was sublime. While technically it was a friendly, it was anything but that with continental pride on the line.

I have come to the conclusion, perhaps belatedly but honestly as a Real Madrid fan, that Messi already deserves to be mentioned along with Pele and Maradona. He is a game changer - Barcelona would not be same team without him. Moreover, he exudes class by continuously exhibiting humility, deference to the team and an aversion to going down easily despite being marked man. At only 24 years old, I wouldn't be surprised if a decade from now we talk about Messi being the best ever and, oh yeah, there were those two other guys. And, as for Neymar... get a real nickname, Juninho.

This is farlieonfootie for June 17.

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