When the news of Roman Torres’ suspension emerged back on Aug. 2, he was in the midst of some of his best sustained play in several years and the Seattle Sounders seemed to be hitting their stride, winning 3 of 4.
The season hasn’t exactly fallen apart since then — the Sounders still remain in contention for the No. 2 spot in the West — but the defense has definitely struggled. Since his last appearance — a 1-0 road win over the Houston Dynamo — the Sounders has given up an 21 goals in 10 games and registered just one shutout.
Torres’ 10-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs is finally over, and he’ll be eligible for selection ahead of a massive road game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Now, this does not mean that inserting Torres into the starting 11 will immediately fix all the defensive woes we’ve witnessed for over the past couple months — the mistakes have happened in various areas of the field and not isolated in the back line — but it his return can definitely help.
Torres has made a career of being a player whose leadership provides a certain level of security to players around him, both at the club level as well as with his national team. His experience and physicality could not only benefit the Sounders defensively but could be paramount to face the playoff atmosphere which lays ahead.
With how tight the race is in the Western Conference, every team with aspirations to play in the post season is already playing with playoff intensity. That is why it has been so difficult for the centerback to watch his team struggle and concede as many goals as they have in his absence
“It has been frustrating to just sit and watch the games from the outside, unable to help, to motivate,” Torres said with a clear sense of disappointment in his voice.
“Being the leader I’ve always strived to be, it has been hard for me to be away from the field whenever my teams go through difficulties and even more when it’s on the defensive end.”
Torres went on to praise the Sounders for holding on to second place despite the latest unsatisfactory results but understands that can change this week depending on other results. Therefore, the Panamanian has his mind set on coming back and helping his teammates reach the next objective.
“I am anxious to get back to work with the guys, to rally them for what’s ahead, anxious to help the team in any way I can to reach a playoff spot and then possibly bring another title to Seattle,” he said.
Hoping to be ready in case the team needed him, “El Mazinger” has made a significant effort to stay in top shape with an individual training regimen and help from a few physical trainers. However, being fit and being game ready are two different things, although Torres feels confident in both of those areas.
“Physically I am in great shape and I think training with Tacoma, doing actual soccer drills has helped me regain my touch on the ball,” Torres said. “I’ll also have one full week of training with the first team, to ramp up some of my work on the ball and get more game rhythm. I think physically and mentally which is also very important, I am ready for the final games and the playoffs that are around the corner”.
With two crucial games left of the season, it will be up to the coaching staff to decide how to rotate Torres back into the lineup. Torres, for his part, says he feels ready to be slotted into the starting 11 this weekend if Brian Schmetzer needed him to do so.
“I am ready play now, whether it is as a starter or on the bench, I am available for any role the coach decides to put me in. This is what I have been training for all this time, I am physically ready to play at San Jose if the team needs me to and leave it all the field to get a good result.”