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Jairo Torres is a busy man.
After going out with a bang with Atlas FC in Liga MX — scoring the lone goal in a 1-1 draw with Tigres on Saturday, Torres landed in Chicago on Monday, and met his new Fire teammates Tuesday morning before fielding questions from the media in the afternoon. After that, he’ll meet with Fire fans at an event in Pilsen.
“I’m just really, really happy to be here,” Torres said via a translator. “I’m very excited to finally be able to be a part of the Chicago Fire.”
Torres, 21, moves to a city filled with adoring Mexican fans — with plenty of those with roots from Guadalajara, where Torres came up through the Atlas youth academy. He also joins a club with a rich tradition of Mexican superstars with players like Jorge Campos, Pavel Pardo, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco paving the way for his arrival. While those might make for great storylines, Torres was sold on the Fire for a more practical reason: the growing number of scouts from top European clubs watching Major League Soccer.
“That’s everyone’s dream, right? To be able to go to Europe,” Torres said. “So it’s really attractive for me, and the project they showed me when they presented it to me was also one that I really liked. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see it through to the end.”
Torres joins a Fire team that is absolutely starved for goal production — with just four non-penalty goals all season — and is desperate for wingers with pace who could help the team create chances in the final third. For weeks, as the goals have dried up, Torres has increasingly been seen by fans as a savior, a guy who will come in and fix things immediately upon arrival. It’s a big ask for a 21-year-old who is moving abroad to a new country and a new league. It almost feels like Torres is in a similar position to another young player who plies his trade at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who was also expected to solve everything upon his arrival.
“We’re very happy to have him here,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “But we are also realistic and we know that while he has such exceptional qualities, it might take a while before he gets used to the league.”
Hendrickson said he is planning on giving Torres at least some minutes on Saturday in Atlanta vs. Atlanta United (5 p.m. CT, WGN-TV and CF97 Live). While Torres played centrally for Atlas, Hendrickson has said all along he plans to use the Mexican star as a wide player, to take advantage of his pace and 1v1 skills. For Torres’ part, he doesn’t really care as long as it helps the team.
“A coach once told me that I am a player that is very, very versatile,” Torres said. “And that’s how players get seen more, when they’re able to play everywhere. So I’m going to play wherever I’m needed, and wherever they put me.”
What about Chris Mueller?
While the spotlight was on Torres, Fire technical director Sebastian Pelzer was forced to address the elephant in the room: Whether Torres would soon be joined out wide by former Orlando City winger Chris Mueller, who grew up in Schaumburg, and played locally for Sockers FC. CHGO has confirmed a report by Paul Tenorio of The Athletic that the Fire have a verbal agreement to sign Mueller, and the club is hoping the deal will be finalized before the transfer window closes late Wednesday night.
“We know Chris Mueller very well from his time in the league,” Pelzer said. “We know he grew up in the Chicago area. At this moment I don’t want to get into detail too much. However, we might come back and share with more news in the upcoming days.”
If both pan out as expected, the additions of both Torres and Mueller could finally help unlock the Fire’s attack. Mueller has spent the last few months at Scottish side Hibernian, but if he’s anything like he was for Orlando in 2020, with 10 goals and 7 assists in 22 games, the Fire could go from a defensively stout side that struggles to score, to a legitimate playoff contender for the first time in years.
CHGO Fire Podcast Debuts!
The content gods have been good to us, and we’ll have plenty to discuss on the debut of the CHGO Fire Podcast, which kicks off Wednesday, May 4, at 12:15 p.m. CT. Watch us live on YouTube, or listen wherever you get your podcasts.
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