In the last few days, Jairo Torres has immigrated to a new country, met his new teammates and participated in his first Chicago Fire training session, sandwiched by a joyous sendoff in Mexico and a hero’s welcome in Pilsen.
Torres scored Saturday in his final game with Atlas FC in Liga MX, receiving thunderous applause in an emotional moment for the 21-year-old who came up through Atlas’ academy and helped Los Rojinegros win the 2021 Apertura title.
On Sunday night he flew from his native Guadalajara to O’Hare to embark on the next stint of his career with the Fire, who formally introduced the designated player Tuesday during a news conference in the Loop.
“A player like Jairo, he’s someone that can make a coach’s life a lot easier,” coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “Take away some of your sleepless nights. He’s just a very good player. Great player with good technical ability, especially in 1-v-1 situations, something that we need on this team.”
Torres trained with the Fire for the first time Tuesday morning at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, then came downtown for his introductory news conference. Afterward he was off to Vault Gallerie for a meet-and-greet with fans in the Lower West Side, a Chicago arrival that came more than two months after the Fire acquired the winger.
He joins the Fire at the right time: After a 2-0-2 start to the season, they are winless in their last five Major League Soccer matches.
Naturally, Torres’ move comes with heightened expectations on the Fire, with whom he will be tested to be a match-winner and a leader — a role Torres said he’s eager to shoulder.
“I think that I matured a lot at Atlas,” he said through an interpreter. “The team that I was on really helped me to grow and to mature into a better player. In reality, I knew that coming in there were a lot of expectations on me, but I’m going to try to take on that role to be a leader, always, on and off the field.
“I mean, there’s a reason that I came here. So I’m going to give everything that I have to be a role model on and off the field and be completely concentrated to do my best here.”
Hendrickson said he expects Torres to get some playing time Saturday at Atlanta United, and he thinks the Mexican’s addition will help correct a Fire attack that has scored only six goals in nine matches.
Fire technical director Sebastian Pelzer said the team scouted Torres for about a month, paying special attention to his work off the ball in addition to his offensive ability.
“When I saw him live it was even better than on the screen,” Pelzer said of Torres’ ability. “I was very impressed with his skills offensively. And also the commitment that he has for his team, working hard defensively as well.
“Look, we’re ambitious. We want to be successful, and to have a player with a full commitment for the team effort, that is what you need. Jairo stood out with many things, and that was one of them.”
On paper, Torres ticks all the boxes for the Fire from a soccer standpoint. He’s a young, dynamic winger who shows plenty of potential.
It doesn’t hurt, either, to sign a player who can connect with Chicago’s Mexican community.
“We know the importance of Mexican players in Chicago,” Pelzer said. “We’d like to serve this community as well. … It’s not just looking for different countries. It’s also finding a good combination of how we can contribute to the community of Chicago.”
But everyone is realistic, too, and realizes that the better Torres plays for the Fire, the more likely he is to attract interest from European clubs.
That could mean another whirlwind in a few years.
“This league is a league that’s been growing for many, many years,” Torres said. “It’s really exciting to be able to come here because a lot of players that have been coming here, with the growth of the league, have also moved on to play in Europe. And at the end of the day, that’s everyone’s dream, right? To be able to go to Europe.”
Torres won’t be the only new addition to the Fire before the MLS primary transfer window shuts Wednesday. A source confirmed an Athletic report that stated the Fire have a verbal agreement to sign Mueller, a Schaumburg native who most recently played for Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership.
Mueller, 25, was the 2017 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year at Wisconsin and played youth soccer with Sockers FC Chicago in the northwest suburbs.
Pelzer declined to go into specifics Tuesday but hinted Mueller, a finalist for the 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year award with Orlando City, should be signed in time.
Torres and Mueller should give the Fire plenty of attacking options in support of Xherdan Shaqiri and Kacper Przybyłko.