During his introductory news conference Tuesday, Fire designated player Jairo Torres made it very clear his goal is to play in Europe. Like new teammate Jhon Duran - also a highly coveted prospect with options when he signed - Torres sees the Fire and MLS as the right team and league to propel him across the Atlantic Ocean.
Torres, 21, left Liga MX club Atlas to come to Chicago, departing from the reigning Mexican champion and a team in contention to retain that title. The Fire, meanwhile, haven’t won a major trophy since 2006, experienced their last postseason victory in 2009 and as of Tuesday had a 28% chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. Their attack has been dull so far, and the Fire’s last goal through open play in an MLS match came 458 minutes ago.
The Fire hope Torres and fellow arrival Chris Mueller can help them start producing some offense.
“He’s a player that can really change the fate of a team,” coach Ezra Hendrickson said Tuesday about Torres, before th Mueller signing was official. “So we’re very happy to have him and looking forward to seeing great things from him on the pitch.”
MLS thinks it’s on the verge of becoming great, and is undoubtedly on the upswing with ambitious new owners and fancy soccer-specific stadiums popping up around the league. Still, Liga MX is still generally considered a higher level, and its teams have historically dominated North American club competitions, even with the Seattle Sounders becoming the first MLS club to claim the Concacaf Champions League.
Yet none of that deterred Torres, a player who also aspires to represent Mexico in major international tournaments. He said MLS is watched a lot in Europe, and mentioned that Atlas is experiencing a “really good time” after past struggles.
“I put it upon myself as one of my goals to come here and do good things here and basically do the things here that I did over there,” Torres said through a translator.
Fire technical director Sebastian Pelzer said the club’s pitch to Torres was about his potential fit on the team and how eager the coaching staff was to add him to the roster. The city of Chicago, with a large Mexican population, was also a selling point.
Pelzer also stressed that Torres made a sporting decision to join MLS.
“The league is also getting better and better and we feel it ourselves,” Pelzer said. “Every year [the league] gets better. And also the Europeans, they see it now as a better league. It’s growing and you see also the number of transfers being made in the past. They speak for themselves, and that’s why it is an attractive league to come maybe before taking a step to Europe.”
Torres echoed that sentiment. He said the league has been growing for “many, many” years and wants to continue an increasingly busy pipeline from MLS to Europe.
“At the end of the day, that’s everyone’s dream, to be able to go to Europe,” Torres said. “So it was really attractive for me, and the project that they showed me when they presented it to me was also one that I really liked and really enjoyed. And hopefully we’ll be able to put it through and see it through to the end.”