Q & A with Gabriel Torres following Panama's stunning loss to the USMNT
Colorado Rapids forward Gabriel Torres arrived back in Denver on Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after he and his Panamanian National Team saw their dreams of playing in next summer's World Cup end in stunning fashion with a 3-2 loss to the United States.
Panama was winning 2-1 in the 91st minute - with Torres having scored the first goal - only to see the U.S. score twice in stoppage time. Had Panama won, they would have finished fourth in CONCACAF and played New Zealand for berth in Brazil. Instead, Mexico advances - despite their loss in Costa Rica.
On Thursday Torres had a light workout at Dick's Sporting Goods Park while the rest of his Rapids teammates trained inside the stadium ahead of Saturday's key home match against Vancouver.
I caught up with Torres afterwards to discuss Panama's match and what's next:
Obviously, it was a sad way to see the World Cup dream end...
Torres: "Yes, honestly it's very sad. It hurt a lot. But as players we have to quickly turn the page and think of what's next - think that Saturday we have a complicated game here at home that we have to win to get closer to the playoffs."
One can analyze a game easily afterwards, but as players were you thinking that by continuing to attack Panama left themselves exposed for the U.S. to score?
"Honestly we never imagined the United States would close the game in that manner, running. We tried to keep the ball from them, but, well, in the two opportunities that they had they scored two goals. And we're out of the World Cup."
On a personal level, what was it like to score that first goal in such an important game in your country?
"Happy because the entire country saw it positively. We knew the result in Costa Rica was in our favor, the country was behind us, the fans in the stadium were so happy with what we were doing in the field. But painfully we could not close out the game, and are left out of the World Cup."
What was the message from Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes following the game?
"To us young guys, to continue working. That soccer doesn't end here. So those of us that play outside the country quickly went our ways to concentrate once again with our clubs."
Your thoughts on the USMNT's approach?
"They honestly showed a lot of professionalism in the field. They didn't come to gift us anything. Until the 89th minute we had played a correct game, and with two distractions we lost the game. It honestly hurt a lot staying out of the World Cup."
What was your reaction after the game?
"Very sad. I went home and had an opportunity to talk with my mom, with my brother, and my wife. Honestly they lifted me up a lot and now I'm ready to play Saturday - if coach (Oscar Pareja) gives me the opportunity - and try to score a goal to help us win."
As a player have you started thinking of the next cycle and trying to get over that hurdle?
"I wished that after losing to the United States that we had a game the next day to have another opportunity and to take advantage of it. But it's over now and we have to think of what's ahead."
Now you have a chance to help your club, the Rapids, make the playoffs. Have you been able to turn your attention to that?
"Yes. I got on the plane and quickly starting thinking about Saturday's game. Just thinking that we need to win to get closer to the playoffs."