“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
We’ve heard this phrase many times, from a philosopher, a psychologist, a business guru, maybe even a soccer coach. I prefer to remember the Head and Shoulders commercial from my youth. The one where the man opens the car door for his date, and while she slides into the front seat, he checks his black jacket for dandruff flakes, sees none, then smiles to the camera before closing the door. First impressions are important for first dates as well as soccer players making their club debut, and Joaquín Torres made his first impression a lasting one.
The Union midfielder, who hails from Neuquén, Argentina and was acquired in January in a trade with CF Montréal, entered the match for Michael Uhre in the 79th minute with the home side up 3-1 on the Columbus Crew. Less than a minute later, fans saw why the Union spent what could add up to $800,000 in GAM over the next two years to land him.
Receiving a pass with his back to goal, Torres spun around Columbus left back Phillip Quinton, pulled a Maradona around Darlington Nagbe, and picked out countryman Julian Carranza in stride with a cutting ball that beat three defenders and led to Carranza burying his second goal of the game to give the Union a 4-1 cushion. Long after the goal celebrations subsided, a buzz lingered throughout Subaru Park while Union social media exploded. Joaquín Torres had arrived.
Over the past two seasons in MLS, Torres’ quality has been evident. With 7 goals and 12 assists in 55 league games for Montréal, most of them as a starter, Torres fills a role of an experienced creative player who can impact a game off the bench, a player the Union haven’t had since Ilsinho in 2020. With a high number of expected games this season, Torres will make his share of starts, giving the Union tactical options when the game requires it, but he’ll provide another attacking piece to a team that scored a club-record 72 goals last season.
“I’m extremely excited,” Torres said after the game about his transition to the team. “The staff and the players have received me very well, and it’s made the process much easier.”
One of Torres’ 13 Montréal assists came against the Union in August 2021 at Subaru Park when he picked out Djordje Mihailovic for a first-half stoppage-time goal in a 1-1 draw. Last season, Torres played 4 games in the Concacaf Champions League, assisting the only Montréal goal in a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals. He had 3 goals and 7 assists in 27 league appearances as Montréal finished the regular season second in the Eastern Conference before crashing out to New York City FC in the semifinals. Torres also recorded an assist against Columbus in a 2-2 draw last September.
Union coach Jim Curtin praised Torres’ debut after the game. “We’ve really preached to the guys everybody’s got to be patient,” he said, referring to the Union’s depth of players coming off the bench with starter quality. “Whatever amount of minutes you get, you have to maximize, and I’ll just say Joaquín maximized those minutes. Within twenty seconds, he makes a game-changing play.” While the dribbling display was superb, Curtin was most impressed with what Torres did after. “The pass he makes, that’s a next level pass,” Curtin added. “Like the rest of the people in the stadium, I thought he was going to play the easy ball out wide and we keep possession, but it’s not a killer pass. And he goes against the grain and sees Julian in a way that the special players can see.”
With Torres making an immediate impact, the Union coach will likely be quick to call his number again as the season’s minutes pile up quickly with the first round of the Champions League beginning in over a week when the Boys in Blue travel to El Salvador to face Alianza March 7th. “He’s going to contribute a lot, great kid, works so hard, and I’m glad the fans got to see almost instantly just how special he’s going to be.”
Julian Carranza, who scored a brace and finished off the impressive sequence from Torres, spoke about his new teammate’s performance after the game. “Knowing Joaquin,” Carranza said, “he’s the type of player that when he turns, he tries to play the final ball. So when he turned, I knew I had to run that way, and then his touch was unbelievable and I just had to finish it off.”
From Torres’ perspective, the rhythm of the play fell in to place with Carranza’s movement. “Once I got the ball,” he said, “the first pass wasn’t there, but when he made the diagonal cut, the pass was there.”
If Saturday night’s first impression was any indication of what the Union will look like in the latter stages of a game, we can expect to see more dynamic combinations that will keep the attack clicking for an entire ninety minutes. And whether the Union are playing from ahead or behind, the anticipated threat from Torres will certainly keep things interesting so say the least, but at best could provide the missing piece for a championship-ready side determined to reach the MLS Cup Final for a second year in a row.