Last weekend, Major League Soccer returned for its 27th season, earlier than normal to accommodate the schedule of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Orlando City kicked off their own campaign with a fashionable and mighty 2-0 win over CF Montreal, playing some of the best attack-minded football on the opening matchday. Instantly upon watching the match, my attention was captivated by one particular individual – Facundo Torres – who recently arrived from Uruguay title winning Club Atletico Penarol. With an intense swagger and silky smooth mannerisms on the ball, Facundo Torres had a brilliant debut day for The Lions, playing his part in their 2-0 victory. So with that, today I take a look at what Facundo Torres offers Orlando, and why he could be a transformative player to take his team to the next level.
INVERTING & FLOATING IN POSSESSION
In a recent interview with The Athletic, Torres wonderfully detailed his own preferences in position and role as a footballer. He outlined that while he loves to play on the wings, he doesn’t want to be tied down to a single position. The Uruguayan wants the freedom to float as he pleases, particularly into central areas where he can make the most of his magic.
This is something that Torres showcased in abundance on opening day, which massively benefited the team’s over-arching ideologies. With Torres frequently cutting onto his left or drifting inside off the ball, Orlando’s right-back – Ruan Gregório Teixeira – was able to overlap down the right and exemplify his quality further up the field. Ruan and Torres have already developed a fantastic understanding, linking up magnificently for the first goal on the day before Ruan whipped the ball into the box for Alexandre Pato. Occupying central areas in this manner also moved Mauricio Pereyra – the team’s top creator and true ‘number ten’ – deeper down the field. Pereyra was then free to pick up passes where he saw fit, and drive the team on from deeper positions. So with Ruan, Pereyra and Torres floating in and around the right-side, Orlando prioritized making a mockery out of Montreal’s left.
Torres in particular used his rambunctious energy to topple over the performance of Zorhan Bassong and Kamal Miller down that side, playing almost as though he had a fast forward button attached to his foot. With every pass inside, he followed it up with a movement in the same direction, constantly opening up space for Ruan to exploit down the wing. In fact, that’s exactly how the Orlando fullback was able to create the team’s first goal.
Full of flicks and tricks, one down-side to Torres from an attacking sense is just how left-footed he is. Even when receiving on the half-turn, he favours his front foot with an outside-of-the-boot left-footed touch, rather than his back-foot on the right. The only right-sided thing about him is his position, and this could be something that evolves for the 21-year-old at Orlando. Another downside to his evident attacking quality is that he’s incredibly generous. Constantly wanting to set up his teammates could help The Lions achieve wonders, but Torres will need to recognize moments where shooting is the better option for his team. Shortly before their second goal, the 21-year-old had a magnificent chance to shoot at Montreal’s gaping goal, after helping his team win back possession on a high press. Instead, he shifted the ball to his left for a teammate, and the chance went away. It’s a stylistic choice that could favour Torres in the long-run, but one that the 21-year-old will need to master as the season progresses. Positively, this showcases one more reason why he’s a perfect fit for the Orlando club. His high pressing energy and intensity fits their motto to a tee, and with the ball sticking to his feet like glue, opposition players won’t be able to react quickly enough if he’s the player to pick the pocket.
ASSITING THE ASSIST
10 goals in 33 matches is a decent final season in Uruguay, but the early signs from Torres at Orlando point to a player who wants to make his opposition dance like puppets, rather than truly work the goalkeeper. Preferring to pull the strings from outside the penalty area, you can expect the Uruguayan playmaker to be more of a creator of goals this season than a scorer. In fact, you can probably even expect him to be more of an assist assistor than anything else. Rather than seeking space inside the penalty area and shifting the ball across to a teammate, he’s more the type to make the pass into the penalty area for the shifting. That should continue to get the best out of teammates like Pereyra and Ruan. The Brazilian fullback scored 2 goals with 4 assists in his 23 MLS appearances last season, while the team captain created 8 goals for his teammates in 2021. Having another creative type in the team will only aid the team in their attacking endeavours, especially one who plays with more precision and pace than 99% of the players around him. Considering both of the team’s top goal contributors from last season (Nani and Daryl Dike) have both departed, the signing of the young Uruguayan is all the more imperative.
Being able to play on both wings will also massively benefit Pareja’s plans. He could use Torres’ trickery out wide to go 1v1 with defenders down the by-line on the left, or for purposes of cutting onto his left from the right, as other players gallop up the field and deliver passes into the penalty area. With his flamboyancy and filthy footwork, that ‘free role’ Torres desires can then take on many different forms as his manager builds attacking plans around his quality.
DEFENSIVE WORKEmbed from Getty Images
While Facundo Torres flourishes in possession of the ball, this wouldn’t be a proper Player Analysis without detailing at least some degree of his defensive work. The early indications suggest that Torres is completely capable of fitting into Pareja’s high-press, especially in energy and swagger. Pareja’s team compacted their out-of-possession 4-3-3 shape to the point where Montreal could hardly put a lid on it, and the shuffling and pressuring power of Torres on the right-wing complemented that attitude.
In his own half, the wing wizard preferred to stay high after the opposition passed his line, readying himself to explode in attacking transitions. However, when he recognized the necessity, he immediately sprinted back in. This kind of game awareness will make Torres an incredibly useful player for Oscar Pareja’s plans, especially as his defensive side grows and matures. The team could take on a more defensive 4-5-1 set-up in mid-to-low-block phases, with the 21-year-old holding line height with the others, complementing his fullback in defending the wide areas. But they could also hold on the mustard and keep the high position of their wide men as Pato drops instead, knowing that will benefit the team in transition.
Regardless of defensive tactics, Torres’ 2 tackles and 2 interceptions, bolstered by a 38.5% pressure success percentage in the first match, showcase a willingness to defend that will be positive for Orlando moving forward.
While it is early days, Orlando’s signing of Facundo Torres as a ‘Designated Player’ looks to be an astute acquisition. The flamboyant youngster has loads of attacking quality in his boots, particularly on his left boot, which he will likely use until it begins to hurt. Preferring to pull the strings from outside of the penalty area, Torres will be a key creator for Orlando this season, even if he’s not the one finishing off chances and scoring goals. The defensive side of his game will mature with time, but he perfectly fits Pareja’s press for the present situation. With another massive game tonight against the Chicago Fire, more of Facundo Torres’ quality will likely be unveiled in the coming weeks as we continue to watch the 21-year-old work his magic.
So there it is! A player analysis of Orlando City new-boy Facundo Torres. Be sure to check out more of our Player Analyses, MLS articles, and follow on social media using the links below @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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