JAMIE HILL - Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Joe Benny Corona could be the next American to play in the Mexican Primera Division if Club Tijuana is successful in its quest for promotion.
The former San Diego State midfielder hoisted the Apertura crown with his teammates in December, but Tijuana's attempt to win the Clausura title was thwarted by Irapuato, who defeated the Xoloitzcuintles over the two-legged final.
The promotion race in the second-level Liga de Ascenso is intense as only one club will move to Mexico's top flight. Tijuana could have earned automatic promotion by winning both the Apertura and Clausura, but they fell short at the last hurdle of the Clausura tournament.
Club Tijuana will have a chance to avenge their defeat against Irapuato and win a place in the top division for the first time in their short history during the two-legged promotion playoff. If no club wins both the opening and closing tournaments, the two winners face off against each other at the end of the season.
Corona is hopeful that Tijuana will emerge victorious. "The mood around the team is the same as it has been all season. There is a very positive environment and the team is confident that we are going to be okay. I feel anxious and excited for this game," the midfielder told YA.
Regardless of the result, Corona will be pleased with his progress during his breakout season with Tijuana.
"I think that as I keep having more minutes my confidence on the field has increased and I feel I have improved a lot, but I still feel that I have a lot more to learn. The season has been positive for me," Corona reflected. "I've been one of the top scorers of the team and have had most of the minutes played. I feel it has been a good season."
Corona is not yet a household name among American soccer fans, but he hopes to make his mark in the future. The 20 year old believes that promotion to the Mexican Primera Division could provide the platform he needs to catch the eye of international coaches.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I've wanted to play in 1st devision so [promotion] would be very important. I feel that once I'm there it could open the door for other teams and of course the national team," said the southern California native. "My dream is to one day play for either the Mexican or US national team."
For now, Corona must focus on two crucial matches against Tijuana's familiar foe. The Xoloitzcuintles face a tough test against Irapuato, who are led by Mexican great Cuauhtemoc Blanco.