From Montevideo…to Orlando…to Qatar.
A storybook 2022 for Orlando City star Facundo Torres will have a barnstormer of a final chapter. Torres was named to Uruguay’s 26-man World Cup squad on Thursday, confirming “El Cuervo” will represent his country on the grandest possible stage at the tender age of 22.
This was no slam dunk for Torres. The budding sensation had a year of dazzling highs as well as challenging lows.
It began with his transfer to Orlando in January.
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After taking boyhood club Peñarol to the Uruguayan league title in 2021, complete with the game-winner in the championship match, Torres joined a growing number of top South American talents in taking his first step abroad in Major League Soccer. He’d already accrued 10 caps for Uruguay at this point, though all came under previous manager Óscar Tabárez, who was dismissed in November 2021 after 15 years on the job and replaced by former Inter Miami coach Diego Alonso.
Described by Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations and General Manger Luiz Muzzi as “one of the top three talents in South America,” Torres came in as a Young Designated Player with high expectations. An assist three minutes into an open-door preseason match against Colorado did nothing to slow the hype train.
However, the youngster hit his first bit of adversity early in the campaign.
Torres accrued just three goals and four assists across 16 matches in his first three months with the club, having some difficulty adapting from the more technical Uruguayan league to the increased physicality and pace of MLS. While he did provide some highlights, including a tournament-saving extra time equalizer against Miami in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Torres was not lighting the league on fire the way some had hoped.
Alonso included Torres in his squad for the March window but did not play him, and he was left out of the team entirely for the June double window. While undoubtedly disappointed at not being included, the two week break did give Torres his first real rest in several months, allowing him to come back to Orlando in the summer primed to break out.
And that’s just what he did. Torres went on a tear through July and August, racking up six goals and five assists in 13 games across the two months, including at least one goal contribution in all four of Orlando City’s consecutive wins in August.
He also added a scintillating goal against English giants Arsenal in a friendly game played as part of the 2022 FC Series, putting Nuno Tavares in a blender before blasting a shot past Aaron Ramsdale.
Torres then produced his signature game in purple in the Open Cup final. Facing a dug-in Sacramento Republic side in front of a sold-out Exploria Stadium, Torres scored the opening goal in the 75th minute and tacked on a game-sealing penalty kick moments later, lifting Orlando City to its first trophy as an MLS club.
And yet, it wasn’t enough. Just a week after the Open Cup triumph, Torres was hit with a brutal blow when Alonso declined to include him in the Uruguay squad for the September window. Uruguayan fans on social media were stunned by the snub, and Torres himself took the news particularly hard, according to Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja, who said he considered giving Torres a rest for the Lions’ match with Toronto that weekend.
Torres asked to play, though, and he delivered once again. El Cuervo kicked things off with a ninth-minute golazo, spurring the Lions to a 4-0 win over the Reds. Torres ended up recording a goal contribution in each of Orlando’s final four games, including the game-winning penalty kick against Columbus on Decision Day that sent Orlando City to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the third straight season.
Pareja was ebullient after the final game: “He carried the team to win the Open Cup, today he carried the team. At the age of 21, it’s incredible. His maturity and humbleness. Orlando should be so happy to have a player like him here.”
Torres ended the season with 13 goals and 12 assists in all competitions – a club single-season record for goal contributions. He had a trophy and a postseason appearance to show for it, scoring the game winner to accomplish both.
Finally, Torres had a resume that could not be denied.
El Cuervo will now join some of the world’s best attackers, including legends Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, Liverpool striker Darwin Núñez, and Flamengo star Georgian de Arrascaeta, at the World Cup with Uruguay. He’ll be facing off against megastars like Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Heung-min Son of South Korea in the group stage, with the prospect of more to come in the knockout rounds should Uruguay advance.
From Montevideo, to Orlando, to Qatar. All in a year’s work for Facundo Torres.