Diego Rossi, Eduard Atuesta, Diego “Chiqui” Palacios, Brian Rodríguez…the list goes on. Much has been made about the wealth of young, highly talented players LAFC’s scouting network has been able to identify and pluck out of various countries and bring to on-field success in Los Angeles.
But a rainy night Sunday night at the end of August marked one of the most important days in the Club’s history, as another young, talented player took the field.
That player was not scouted for years in Uruguay, Colombia or Ecuador, but, rather, in the Club’s own Southern California backyard. 16-year-old former LAFC Academy forward, Christian Torres, took to the pitch for the first time ever in a regular season MLS game, making a reality out one of the Club’s fundamental goals of identifying and developing local youth players and providing a professional pathway for those with the potential to realize their MLS dreams.
While the ascendance of Torres along with the signing of LAFC Academy products Tony Leone and Erik Dueñas might have seemed like a fast path to the first team for fans, in reality, those young steps on the field have been years in the making.
Following LAFC’s first-ever season in 2018, Co-President & General Manager John Thorrington gave his first “state of the union” address, reflecting on the Club’s inaugural campaign. Amidst discussing the on-field success of the first team, he quickly shifted to something else on the top of his mind - the LAFC Academy.
“They’re getting closer and closer to becoming professionals," Thorrington explained. "We’re already connected philosophically, but actually having them graduate and connect our Academy with players that are stepping on to the training field and stadium with our first team is incredibly exciting”.
Behind the scenes at the LAFC Academy, coaches and scouts have been working in lockstep with the first team staff since 2017 preparing for this day.
Originally joining the Academy as a 14-year-old, Torres was signed on July 8 along with fellow Academy players Leone and Dueñas. He had previously made club history when he was the first LAFC Academy player to score a goal with the first team during a 3-1 preseason win over Toronto FC earlier this year.
In two years with the LAFC Academy, the Fontana native notched 30 goals in 44 matches. He also played for the U.S. Youth National Team at the Concacaf U-15 Boys’ Championship in August 2019.
But even more remarkable than his on-field numbers, and him earning a spot on the pitch with the first team, was how he handled himself throughout the experience.
“I was just blessed to be out there and felt so fortunate,” Torres said about his debut. “Obviously disappointed with the loss and we will just go back to the drawing board for Wednesday’s match.”
There was much to discuss after Sunday night’s match, a 3-1 loss to the reigning MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC that felt like one of the Club’s toughest losses ever, but even amongst the disappointment of final score, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley was able to shine a light on this bright spot.
“We are excited to get him on the field,” Bradley said. “[Torres is] a young player, just like Tony Leone and Erik Dueñas, experienced now in training and little by little we hope to move these guys along and tonight was a first step for him.”