Torres waited more than 11 months to return to game action, from the moment he tore his ACL against San Jose last September until Sunday afternoon at Providence Park.
PORTLAND – Roman Torres would have envisioned more encouraging circumstances in which to make his highly anticipated return.
The Panamanian center back waited more than 11 months – “11 long months,” he specified through a translator afterward – to return to game action, from the moment he tore his ACL against San Jose last September until Sunday afternoon at Providence Park.
Torres entered as a halftime sub. He knelt on the sideline, raised both palms in an expression of gratitude.
The Sounders were already 4-0 down by the time he took the field. Seattle mustered a momentary rally but still fell 4-2 to the rival Timbers, losing valuable ground in the Western Conference playoff race.
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But Torres? Torres was an unquestioned bright spot.
“At first, there was a little fear but then I got a little more confident,” Torres said. “With the support of my teammates, I felt strong.”
The 30-year-old showed very little rust as a result of his long layoff. He tussled with hulking Timbers forward Fanendo Adi, made a diving block that kept his team within relative striking distance.
“Torres was good,” interim Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “He’s a big body. He can battle with Adi. I thought Adi was very effective in that first half. And now we have someone that can counter that.”
As to where Torres slots into the pecking order at center back, well, incumbent starter Brad Evans seemingly settled that afterward.
“He’ll step in and fill that role,” Evans said. “I’ll have to find a new position. Credit where credit’s due. He’s a big boy. He can handle himself. He did well in his first game back and I’m happy to have him out there.”
– On his decision to remove Tyrone Mears for Torres at halftime, shifting Evans from center to right back, Schmetzer painted it more as a fatigue issue than a performance thing.
Mears struggled throughout the first half – he was far from alone on the back line in that regard – both in defense and pushing forward.
“Tyrone had played a lot of minutes back-to-back,” Schmetzer said. “They all did.
“In our system, the 4-2-3-1, we need our outside backs to go. It opens up space for Nico (Lodeiro) and things in-between. Tyrone was a little gassed and he wasn’t able to get forward as much I as would have liked. As a center back, you usually don’t do quite as much running. We just thought Brad was a little bit fresher.”
– Chad Marshall is fine. The center back was moving gingerly after a collision with Adi early in the first half. But though Marshall will look forward to this upcoming bye week more than most, Schmetzer said he’s not worried about any kind of long-term injury.
“He got stepped on by a big guy,” Schmetzer said. “He put his heart and soul into the game. So he’s tired and sore. But physically, he’s fine.”
– Seattle played a midweek game in Houston, while the Timbers had a full week to recover from their 3-1 loss at CenturyLink Field last Sunday. Losing Clint Dempsey just two days before match day would have been a downer even if the reason for his absence wasn’t as sobering as his getting evaluated for an irregular heartbeat.
So there were extenuating circumstances to at least partially excuse that stink bomb of a first half, should Schmetzer have chosen to lean on them afterward.
“I won’t make excuses for heat, travel, multiple games in a week,” Schmetzer said. “We won’t make that excuse. Not as long as I’m here.”