One-on-One with Gerardo Torrado: On El Tri, NASL and the path to Europe

Trevor Ruszkowski/NASL

He blazed a trail from Spain to Indiana and anchored Mexico's midfield for more than a decade. Now "El Borrego" is eyeing the next chapter. 

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The Mexican national team has had bigger names and players whose abilities were more prized by El Tri fans and feared by rivals, yet few wielded the kind of influence that came from Gerardo Torrado.

The central midfielder was neither big nor particularly fast nor blessed with blinding skill. But his intelligence, superior work ethic, leadership abilities and outstanding vision made him one of Mexico's most consistent and successful performers. He was an adept tackler and passer who spent 14 years at the international level, winning 146 caps — only Claudio Suarez played more often for El Tri — and playing in three World Cups.

Probably I'm not the best-skilled player in the world — in Mexico, either — but I have that mindset of never giving up and of always trying to do something else that will [help me] become the better player and the better person.

Torrado's career took him from Mexico City to Spain, where he played for two La Liga clubs, and back to his hometown, where he was the long-serving captain at Cruz Azul. Last year, with his career nearing its end, he moved to the U.S. — not to MLS, but to Indy Eleven in the NASL.

He's been massive for the Indianapolis-based club, which hasn't had the results it desires on the field but has been one of the league's best-run franchises.

FourFourTwo USA caught up with Torrado to talk about his experiences in the United States, what playing for El Tri means to him, and the how he sees the rivalry between the Mexico and U.S. national teams.

FOURFOURTWO: After nearly two decades in Mexico City and Spain, you joined Indy Eleven 14 months ago. What has the experience been like?

GERARDO TORRADO: It's been a great experience. It was a great decision that we made before coming. My wife, Regina, and I were looking to give the opportunity to our kids to learn another language and learn and live in another culture, and it's great. Seeing them develop and improve and everything, I mean, we are so glad we took this decision.

Indianapolis is really calm. We don't live downtown, we live in Carmel, which is really nice, where the people, they have enough time to ask you, ‘How are you?’ and to know each other.

We have enough time to do activities [with our three children, ages 6, 4 and almost 1]. They're doing swimming lessons, they're doing soccer training. Those kind of things in Mexico, we have them, but sometimes you don't have enough time because of the traffic. It's so crowded that you only have the opportunity to do one.

FFT: I've been in Mexico City traffic, and it can be insane.

GT: It is. And it's awesome, living here. There are long distances, but without traffic. I'm used to going shorter distances in the same amount of time. It's crazy, but you get used to it. It's really cool not having that here.

FFT: What told you that Indianapolis and the NASL was the right place for you?

GT: I had the opportunity to talk with Jeff [Belskus, Indy Eleven’s president], and he explained to me how they were working on the project. And I had the opportunity to talk to Coach [Tim] Hankinson, and he explained to me as well the sports part of it. We didn't know much about Indianapolis ... but it was an opportunity that we started as a family.

I wanted to play in another league, [one] that wasn't the Mexican league. I had played in Spain, and I wanted to explore more about the league in USA, so I think it was a great opportunity to be in a project that is ambitious and they want to make it grow. I just saw myself fitting into the project of Indy Eleven.

FFT: There's been a lot of turmoil off the field in NASL, with teams leaving after last season and U.S. Soccer's decision not to extend second-division status for the league next year. Is this a concern to you, or do you see it as soccer politics?

GT: I think it's part of the game. Because you know what's going on and what's happening with the league, so that has to be part of what you're focused on. The league had trouble last year to survive, and now [the U.S. Soccer ruling is] a big punch for the league.

John-Joe Pereira/NASL

John-Joe Pereira/NASL

We'll see how it goes on and what other news can come out. People that are representing the NASL will talk to the American federation to see what they can arrange and see if they have the opportunity to still be the second division or join [the USL], the other second-division league.

I don't know, really, much about it. I just want to focus on the field. That's what soccer players need to do, and in my case, now that I've returned [for a second year], I just want to enjoy it. Probably, it's not great news for our team and for the other teams and the players. We'll see how it goes.

NEXT: As retirement nears, Torrado takes stock