Saturday afternoon the Houston Dynamo announced they had sent Erick “Cubo” Torres on loan to Liga MX’s Cruz Azul for the remainder of the calendar year. The move comes about 24 hours before the team is set to participate in a friendly against CD Guadalajara.
Rumors first surfaced earlier in the week that Cruz Azul was attempting to purchase Torres for around $5 million. Many fans felt that given his lack of playing time, and production, over the past two seasons, the price was fair and wouldn’t have minded seeing the young Mexican Olympian go.
A loan-to-buy, however, seems to be a middle ground and could speak to the fact that a price couldn’t be worked out. With the transfer window for Mexico closing, the process was likely sped up, resulting in a loan instead of an out and out purchase.
Torres joins a Cruz Azul team that is struggling mightily. While they’ve only lost a single game so far, they’ve only won once while drawing in the rest. Their defense is solid but their ability to find the back of the net has let them down repeatedly. His competition for minutes will be Paraguayan Jorge Benitez, young Victor Zuniga, Ecuadorian Joffre Guerron and Argentine Jonatan Cristaldo.
What this allows for Houston is to (hopefully) dedicate their focus on Mauro Manotas. The young Colombian has showed well during his past couple stints, linking up with his teammates to create scoring chances. His assist to Christian Maidana a few weeks back is his first point in Major League Soccer. While he has yet to find the back of the net, he has gotten closer as the minutes stack up. If he gets more playing time, hopefully he will find the back of the net and finish the season strong.
Unfortunately for fans this move does mean that the Dynamo are almost guaranteed to stick with their 4-2-3-1 formation. With Torres gone, like Giles Barnes before him, the team only has two out-and-out strikers on the roster.
It’s unlikely that interim head coach Wade Barrett will use both Manotas and Will Bruin at the same time as it would limit his options on the bench.
It is worth noting that Houston does have Academy graduate Charly Flores signed with USL side Rio Grande Valley but with his lack of experience, it’s highly unlikely he’d get moved to the first team. It’s better for his development to stay with a team that is rolling and continue to learn under Wilmer Cabrera.
If either striker is injured or suspended down the stretch, their are other players who can slot in up top, but not as a lone striker. Maidana, Andrew Wenger and Oscar Garcia have all spent some time in their careers up top and could do so again in a pinch.
The way this situation turns out best for Houston is if Manotas scores some goals here and Torres does enough to earn a permanent move to Mexico. With DaMarcus Beasley’s contract expiring this year, that would free up a ton of salary cap space, as well as having close to a million dollars in allocation funds to work with.
For those who don’t know, allocation money is used to buy down the cap hit of a newly signed player. So if Player X is signed for $300K, Houston could use $100K to make his cap hit only count as $200K. When a player is sold, a maximum of $650K is given to the team in allocation funds.
Anything above that must be used on other aspects of the team (such as coaches, Academy, facilities, etc). Houston collected a hefty amount of cash from Vancouver Whitecaps in the transfer window when they moved Barnes.
With all the changes needed to the roster to be competitive again, this winter is shaping up to be the busiest in team history. To see if Torres can help turn Cruz Azul’s season around, tune in next Saturday as they face off against Liga MX giants Club America at 4 pm.