Jose Francisco Torres is one of Jurgen Klinsmann's most beloved players, even if most observers can't quite figure out his loyalty to a player that has so rarely played well in a United States shirt. The diminutive midfielder has turned in so many sub-par performances that his invisible 45 minutes against Mexico in August didn't seem so bad by comparison. Yet through it all, Klinsmann has continued to call Torres in, including for this week's qualifiers against Jamaica.
Torres didn't make it off of the bench on Friday in Kingston, watching as the U.S. failed to maintain any possession, string together places or perform anything remotely skillful for 90 minutes. It was a change for Klinsmann, who played Torres in five of the Americans' last six matches and seemed to value what Torres could bring to the table, even if he hadn't made good on that potential.
But Friday's loss in Kingston was the exact kind of match that Torres should theoretically be valuable in. With three defensive-minded midfielders, none of whom are particularly adept at keeping the ball and a premium placed on controlling the tempo of the match against a Jamaica team that wanted to get out and show off their pace, Torres' skill could have made him the man to keep the ball and dictate the tempo. Yet there was Torres, on the bench for all 90 minutes.
Now the U.S. returns home to take on the same Jamaican team that they fell to four days ago. They have had time to evaluate went wrong and make changes. Those changes should include the return of Torres, whose skill could help fix much of what wrong.
"Instead of keeping the ball and moving it around simply, we gave them opportunities and opportunities to get free kicks and they scored off of a free kick in the first half and the second half," Klinsmann told the New York Times after Friday's loss. I think the team has the opportunity on Tuesday to fix it."
Keeping the ball and moving it around simply screams "Torres!" The calm on the ball, ability to maneuver out of small spaces and make the simple passes that settles his team, while simultaneously stretching out the opposition are the qualities he brings to the team that nobody else does.
Maybe Torres' international struggles scared Klinsmann off and that is why he didn't play on Friday. Maybe those struggles will scare Klinsmann again and result in another stint on the bench for Torres tonight. But if that is the case, then why was Torres called in at all?
Torres was called in because Klinsmann believes in his skills and what he brings to the team despite his struggles. Tonight's match calls for those skills. Torres has to start. If not tonight, then when?