Juan Pablo Torres will play his first minutes with New York City FC after transfer from Lokeren in Belgium. (Photo courtesy of NYCFC)
Keaton Parks had plenty of appearances with the reserves at Benfica but featured only four times in two seasons with the first team of the Portuguese giants.
Juan Pablo Torres secured only two first team appearances in less than two years at KSC Lokeren in the Belgian top tier.
Consequently, this pair of Americans planned return flights to the states with mutual ambitions – first team minutes.
In January – within seven days of each other – Parks and Torres signed with New York City FC.
Parks played a season high 27 reserve minutes in the recent 5-2 triumph over FC Cincinnati – 60 seconds fewer than his season total in the previous 13 matches.
Torres has yet to cross the touchline on match day in a New York City kit.
After Monday’s training session at St. John’s University, City head coach Dome Torrent revealed that Parks and Torres will be in the starting XI on Wednesday against USL side North Carolina FC in the U.S. Open Cup.
“When I arrived here I was hoping to play more,” the 19-year old Torres said. “I think I had a good preseason so I was hoping towards the beginning of the season I would get more minutes and be able to help the team.”
Parks, who will miss U.S U-23 national camp to play with the Pigeons on Wednesday, described the challenge that both he and Torres have faced.
“It can be difficult sometimes – its hard to keep your mind right,” the 21-year old said. “Me and JP have a lot of experience in professional soccer already at a young age so we’re kind of used to it. We work hard everyday until our opportunity comes.”
With injuries and international absences, New York City will have a top-heavy group of just 13 outfield players available.
“We have enough forwards but not enough defenders,” Torrent said in the drizzle at Belson Stadium – the site of Wednesday’s match and the home of the NYCFC Academy. “We have to adapt some players.”
Torrent suggested that the rookie midfielder from Lilburn, Georgia might have to play at the back.
“We can play JP (Torres) at fullback,” Torrent said. “I have to think tonight what is the best solution for us.”
Torres has never competed as an outside back but has performed in that position when necessary in practice sessions.
“I’ve had to play sometimes in training with Joe Scally being injured and the coaches talk to me about playing that position,” Torres said. “I’ve never played fullback at any competitive level – I’ve only played midfield. But I won’t use that as an excuse.”
Parks is most comfortable as an attacking midfielder but is likewise prepared to adjust if needed.
“I’m getting ready for any position I have to play,” Parks said. “I’m trying to work with the other guys and Dome to fill out all the positions for this game.”
Parks, who has one USMNT cap, says the extended minutes last Thursday at Yankee Stadium were rewarding.
“I felt really good,” Parks said. “I got on the ball a lot and I thought I was getting into the attack and getting into the defense well. I was involved a lot. I felt good and it felt good to get the win.”
Torres says he will savor his moment and appreciates any prospects for playing time.
“I enjoy playing this game – I’m in a good position,” said Torres, who had four goals in U.S. U-20 World Cup qualification but was not selected to the squad that was eliminated in the quarterfinals. “Not a lot of kids have this opportunity to play soccer as a job. I really hold that to my heart and every day I step on the field I use it as another opportunity to show myself.”