Roger Torres has been a favorite among Union fans almost since the team's inaugural game. Seemingly every time he starts warming up on the sidelines, the River End - and many other parts of PPL Park - chant his name in unison.
Those fans know that Torres' skill on the ball and passing vision are rare traits. His ability to deliver an inch-perfect pass comes naturally, even at a still-young age.
But the Colombian's lack of consistency over the years nearly led to his exit from PPL Park this offseason. Union manager John Hackworth challenged Torres to step up over the winter, and by his own admission wasn't sure what would happen
Torres answered the call. He came to preseason training fit and ready to be a leader. Even though he's just 21, Torres is one of the veterans on the Union's roster, and is one of a very select group of players who has been with the club since its inaugural season.
If you watched the Union's preseason opener on Saturday against Orlando City, Torres was hard to miss. He's got the coveted No. 10 jersey now, and has filled it out with a taller and more confident body than what we've seen in the past.
If you didn't watch the game, check out the highlights below. You'll see that Torres isn't afraid to shoot, even from long range. And you'll see see the terrific pass that Torres delivered for the Union's only goal of the night.
Before the Union left for Orlando, I chatted with Torres for a few minutes about his preparations and expectations for this year. The first thing I learned was that another aspect of his offseason regimen has improved considerably, as we did the entire interview in English.
John Hackworth says he's been very happy with the work that you did in the offseason. What were you doing to stay healthy and ready to play?
I think it was recovering from my injury.* So I lost a lot of my fear, and I tried to do everything in this offseason to get back and help my team this season. I think it's important for our team and I feel very comfortable right now. We have a great team and I want to do the best for us.
* - Torres suffered a MCL in April that dogged him throughout the year.
I see you've also been working on your English.
Yeah. It's not that perfect, but I try, you know?
You're still a young player, but you've been here a long time while many other new players have come in. How important is it to you that you've made it here for multiple years?
I think that I feel comfortable, like I said, because I am one of the players that has the most years here in this team. I try to help my teammates when they don't know something about how we're going to work. That's important for me and it's important for my friends.
I saw during a training session earlier that you all spent a lot of time working with the ball. People say of American soccer about how it's about a lot of running and strength and not so much skill. But you all are working with the ball a lot, with many passing and shooting drills. How important is that for you?
It is important for me. It is the way that I play. Hackworth works a lot on it. He likes that we have the ball and play soccer. So I think this is good for the team, because the team that gets the ball is going to get more chances to score. We are working on that.
In the past, John Hackworth has played a 4-3-3. He has said he's still working on the right system for this year, but when you look at that 4-3-3 system, are you comfortable with it?
Yes. I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with whatever the coach wants. I want to be a starter, so I am going to work hard. If he's going to play a 4-3-3, I'm going to play a 4-3-3. If he wants to play a 4-3-1-2, whatever he wants, I'm going to be ready for that when I get the chance.