By: Scott Stewart
Days ahead of his future team's Spring Season title-winning 4-1 win at "The Mike," midfielder Gerardo Torrado arrived in Indianapolis without expectation. A blank slate had been given to the former Mexico National Team legend and Cruz Azul captain of 11 years, making the Midwest his new home.
"I didn't know what I was going to get here, but I learned more than I ever thought possible," said Torrado, who arrived before his family as he set off on the final part of his playing career. "I've been able to enjoy things in a different way. Getting to know people from different parts of the world, getting to learn in such a great city with great supporters at a club that is expecting to grow is a blessing."
Nicknamed "G" (or Gerry) on his first day with the team, it did not take long for Torrado to adjust to the Indianapolis-area. Fittingly, his family quickly became a part of the Indy Eleven fabric, easing their transition from Mexico to the United States and settling in Carmel, IN. Since then, Torrado has featured nearly 40 times as a member of "Indiana's Team," cementing himself in the starting line-up nearly every week.
Representing at every game, "El Borrego" and his family could often be seen kicking the ball around the Carroll Stadium pitch in front of the Brickyard Battalion section. With just three home games remaining before calling fulltime on his career, Torrado knows those kinds of opportunities—the moments that made him fall in love with Indianapolis and Indy Eleven—are fleeting.
"It has been a great experience for my family, as well. My kids and family feel like they are a part of things here and that's important to me," said the former Mexico NT captain. "It makes them happy. And my time here—this isn't just for the year-and-a-half I have been here—when my time is done, we will remember this place and these people for life. I will always talk with joy when speaking about my time here."
Torrado is a natural born leader, and some would argue that if he wasn't a natural born midfield general, he grew quickly into that role. But, one thing Torrado knows is that he is not a natural born goalscorer. In all, the 38-year-old is credited with having tallied 19 goals in nearly 500 appearances across all club competitions, with six goals to his name in nearly 150 international caps.
So, when Torrado found his first goal for Indy Eleven against the New York Cosmos in August, scoring not once, but twice, it was a special moment.
"I'm not a player that has scored many goals in my career, but I enjoy doing it and most of all, I enjoy afterward. As I've said before, I'm not a top scorer, but in talking with my wife during my career, when I score goals, they are pretty. So theme 'little but nice.' In Spanish, it rhymes: 'poquitos pero bonitos'," said Torrado. "It has been such a great experience with the guys becoming one of the 'Boys in Blue', and my time here has been fantastic. To be able to score and enjoy that moment adds to the list of things I won't forget."
Torrado's smile is contagious. A calm, coy personality, you would not think the man had captained three different World Cup sides when speaking with him.
But, there's an aura of presence around him. In over 20+ years as a player, Torrado has developed a knack for living and breathing in the moment you're speaking to him. Nothing too far… past or future… dictates that moment. Ask the Hispanic community of Indianapolis with whom he has formed relationships. One of the biggest international talents to bless the North American Soccer League (NASL), Torrado has gone above and beyond his duties as a player to establish a connection with this city and the people who inhabit it.
"In the beginning, I didn't think there were a lot of Hispanic people in this community. But, now I see more and more people in the stadium every week. These people get to come in and enjoy themselves in an environment like Carroll Stadium. It's wonderful," said the midfielder. "You want your people to come in and share those moments, so seeing more people at the stadium and having more of the Hispanic community at our games, it makes me feel happy, and also for the team. The guys put on a great show and it's fantastic to be a part of."
For Torrado, every moment here from day one to day one hundred and beyond is a teaching moment. Accomplishing more than many dream of in their careers, "El Borrego" isn't done... yet. Instead, he's ready to soak in every remaining minute of his time with "Indiana's Team" as he continues to push himself out of his comfort zone.
"There are a lot of things and moments in your career where you think you're right and no one else is. Sometimes you have to be open to still learning and knowing that your way isn't always the only way things can be done. I've learned a lot here, on and off the field. I've tried to grow here and give my best to the team," he said. "It's about giving back, and that's been a big part of my time here as well. I wanted to help younger players where I could, whether that's coaching them or developing their skills, or even just helping them realize they had talent they didn't previously see."
And so his learning experience continues, this time as the Sport Director for the Mexico National Team, as his thinking shifts from playing to coaching in what will be a long road for a legend of the game.
"What's coming next was a surprise for me because I wasn't looking for it. I was expecting to study a coaching course in Europe and keep my family here, but some friends from the Mexican Federation contacted me and it became serious very quickly," he said. "My family and I wanted to be here longer to give my children a chance to keep learning, but when the national team knocks at your door you know it probably won't happen again. Or if it does, it won't be for a long time. It was a tough decision and I know it's a great challenge but we're expecting to have a great time there."
The future is bright for "G" and co., with the Mexico National Team having already qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Though he will miss the playing side of the game, getting the opportunity to help continue to grow and see his work come to life before his own eyes is one he simply could not pass up.
"Good things are coming for our guys (Mexico National Team). We have a World Cup around the corner and we have a great team that is playing very well. We have good, quality players that are having fun and are playing well against other teams, so we're excited about this," he said. "My role will keep me close to the players, and being a player in the national team for over 13 years, for all the experience I have, I know what to expect and now it's about bringing it all back together to give our players the tools they need to excel."
In due time, though. Torrado still has three more matches to play at Carroll Stadium, meaning three more opportunities to don that blue jersey with Lady Victory on his chest. A jersey that he has come to not only embrace but cherish. As the countdown to the 2017 regular season finale on Sunday, October 29 continues, Gerardo has it all to give for this city and this team.
"I just want to thank everybody because everybody has been great to me and my family. I'm just so grateful," he said. "When I first arrived, it was a very 'glass half full' situation. Now, I'm living with a glass that is full to the top with great things. I'm so grateful to this city, these people, and my teammates, because I've become a better person and player, and I'm able to live that out today because of them."
So, when Gerardo Torrado leaves Indianapolis for the final time as a "Boy in Blue," he leaves with class, respect, a full future, and a full glass.