If you rewind back to 2020, you would see Luca De La Torre’s club and international career at a standstill, but after three years and a pair of permanent transfers, the 25-year-old looks like a completely different player.
De La Torre is currently part of his latest U.S. men’s national team camp as Gregg Berhalter’s squad prepares for a two-legged CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal showdown with Trinidad & Tobago. The California native is navigating through his second season with La Liga side Celta Vigo, a club he helped avoid relegation from the Spanish top-flight last May.
After an impressive two-season run with Heracles Almelo in the Dutch Eredivisie, De La Torre moved to Spain, which helped him get back on the USMNT’s radar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Now with 17 international caps and recent World Cup experience under his belt, De La Torre is ready for the next opportunity to grow with his USMNT teammates.
“Over these last 12 months you can see the dividends that are being paid in that he’s in La Liga, he’s a full-time starter, he’s playing under a great manager,” USMNT assistant coach B.J. Callaghan said Monday in a press conference.
“And he’s, for me, someone who’s grown tremendously, and we believe is a really valuable piece to our to our men’s national team,” he added.
De La Torre spent ample time in Fulham’s academy as a young player and made 14 combined appearances for the Cottagers over three years, but needed a new opportunity to truly test himself on a weekly basis. A free transfer to Heracles Almelo led to De La Torre making 69 combined appearances for the Dutch club before its eventual relegation in May 2022.
Since his arrival in Spain, De La Torre has logged over 2,000 minutes for Celta Vigo, playing against tougher competition each and every week. His long-term future with the club remains unknown, but De La Torre credited both Heracles and Celta Vigo for helping him get to where he is today.
“When I was 22 and I left Fulham, I had maybe 10 first appearances in my career,” De la Torre said. “Now I’ve played two seasons in Holland, one in Spain, I’m more established now in Spain. It’s been a really nice journey.
“I feel like every year I’m improving,” he added. “I’m getting better. This is just another step.”
Despite not featuring at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, De La Torre has remained a key depth piece in the USMNT squad. He has made seven appearances in 2023, assisting twice in a 7-1 Nations League win over Grenada last March before also featuring in the tournament’s Final Four last June as the Americans repeated as champions.
Since Gregg Berhalter’s re-hiring as USMNT head coach, De La Torre has featured off the bench in three of the last four matches, totaling 95 minutes of action against Uzbekistan, Germany, and Ghana.
De La Torre’s versatility has certainly helped him grow as a professional player in Europe and that could also be key in helping him get on the field in both matches against the Soca Warriors over the next week.
“His versatility I think is a great tool for him,” Callaghan said. “It speaks to why he becomes so valuable once he gets into a team and a coach can realize the different aspects and variability that he can bring to different game plans.
“[He has] a quiet self-confidence but being around him, we know how driven he is,” Callaghan added. “He’s a player that’s taken some risks in his career, because he believes in himself.”