Juan Pablo Torres scored four goals for the United States U-20 team en route to the Concacaf Championship and a berth in this spring’s World Cup.
Next, he will try to ignite the attack in the midfield for New York City FC.
The 19-year-old, born in Georgia to Colombian parents, has signed a multiyear contract with NYCFC following a two-year stint in Belgium with first-tier side KSC Lokeren.
“The club has been able to establish itself as one of the leading teams in the country,” Torres said a statement released Saturday by the club. “When NYCFC offered me a deal—it was an easy decision. I’m looking forward to learning from coach (Dome) Torrent and his technical team. I will always give my all for the club and I am ready to help the team as much as I can.”
Torres, a product of the Georgia United Development Academy, has appeared just twice in the Jupiler League for last-place Lokeren – a one-minute cameo in a 3-0 win over Eupen on Aug. 26, 2017 and a defensive midfield role for the full 90 minutes of a derby match against Gent on Nov. 19 the same year. Torres first and only start as a professional resulted in a 3-0 defeat.
Lokeren is in relegation position on 14 points through 22 matches and trailing the side in front of them, Zuite Waregem, by six points.
In February last year, Torres gave a thoughtful description of the position he has often played at the highest levels – the No. 6 or holding midfield role – to the Belgium football blog What a Load of Waffle.
“I think the defensive midfield position is in a new era where a lot of them aren’t exactly ‘killers’ anymore but on the ball they’re very creative and the ones who can start the attack while they can do the dirty work as well,” Torres said. “You look at Kante and see how he can pick up passes and how he reads the game. He will press forward and immediately being able to nick the ball. He’s like a mosquito always flying around. You want to swat him away but his always there.”
Torres, whose hometown is Lilburn, Ga., went on trial with Schalke when he was 14 and then had the opportunity to train with the U-19s at Lokeren. He ultimately signed with the first team.
On the international level, Torres needed to decide between Colombia and the United States.
“I get this question a lot – I always have to choose the United States,” Torres told the Belgium blog. “Obviously, both my parents are Colombian and I always have Colombian pride because that’s where my parents grew up and made their lives. But I was born and grew up in America all my life. I have that pride in me. I’ve only ever just traveled to Colombia and not lived there so for me, it’ll always be America.”
Torres has been part of the U.S. Youth National Teams since 2012 as a member of the U-14s. He has appeared in seven U-20 matches and captained the team to a 6-0 triumph against St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a Concacaf group stage match last summer.
“In Juan Pablo, we’re adding a dynamic midfielder who is extremely versatile and comes to us at an exciting time in his career,” NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said. “We want to pursue players who are highly adaptable and can play multiple positions and Juan Pablo fits this mold. He has a very high soccer IQ and understands the style and tactical approach in which we play. He’ll be an excellent cultural fit within our locker room and overall is an exciting addition here at NYCFC.”
Torres is a likely selection for the U-20 World Cup in Poland from May 23-June 15. He’s the third product of the U.S. National Team program to be signed by New York City, joining Keaten Parks and Justin Haak.
Torres also watches Barcelona and admires Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
Torrent coached that pair at Barca while assisting Pep Guardiola, and would gladly accept an effective blend of both players.