BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, November 10, 2011
With the first US U-23 camp now well underway in Germany, Club Tijuana midfielder is happy to be playing international soccer for the United States.
For Corona, 21, the past few months have been filled with up and down playing time at Club Tijuana along with questions about who he was going to represent on the international stage.
A native of San Diego, Corona holds citizenship with the US, Mexico, and El Salvador.
Last season Corona was a key part of the Tijuana's promotion to the Mexican Primera. He carried his success last season into the Primera when he scored two goals in the club's first two games
His success saw him invited by then US national team head coach Bob Bradley to join the team for a friendly against Mexico in August. Bradley, however, was fired before the roster was officially named and Corona was not selected by Bradley's replacement, Jurgen Klinsmann.
Following that, Corona was then invited to train with Mexico's U-22 team ahead of the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico. Corona accepted but he was not selected to be on the final team for the tournament.
When the US named Akron University's Caleb Porter to be the head coach for the U-23 team for next year's Olympic and Olympic qualifying tournaments, he selected Corona to be on the roster for the first camp.
"I'm very happy to get the callup," Corona told YA. "I know it's a great opportunity for me to play for the country that I was raised in."
After playing for both the US and Mexico in recent months, Corona has not downplayed his conflicted allegiance to both countries.
"I feel very connected to both," Corona explained. "I was raised in the Mexican culture and that's why I played with the Mexican team. But I was raised here and I love both countries. When Bradley called me, I accepted and I was very pleased. When I went with Mexico, [that was for the] the team that was going to the Pan-American games. I wanted to go those games so bad."
Corona did not make the final Mexican team for the Pan Am Games and it was disappointment. For him, it reopened the door of which country he was going to represent. When the US called on him to take part in the first Olympic team camp, he did not hesitate.
"When I saw the final [roster] and that I wasn't on it, I was disappointed," Corona admitted. "I was like I'm going to go with the country that gives me the opportunity. Now that I have this callup I think it is a chance for me to show that I am happy to play for the US."
Despite playing for both countries, Corona is emphatic that the United States is not his second choice. For him, the first international callup he was going to accept was Bradley's for the United States in August to play against Mexico.
"It wasn't like I saw the US as a second choice," Corona said. "I am very close to the US and I was raised. I think it was an even kind of way at looking at things. I am excited to play for the United States."
When Corona returns from Germany and rejoins Club Tijuana, he will hope to continue to establish himself under head coach Antonio Mohamed who took over in September after he replaced Joaquin del Olmo.
Corona began the season in the club's starting lineup but eventually struggled for playing time after the coaching change. In his last game before the international window, however, he started in the Tijuana's 1-1 draw against Pumas.
Corona is confident that this trend of increased playing time will continue as Mohamed gets to know him.
"It started out very well," Corona pointed out. "I was a starter. But now we have a new coach and he's beginning to get to know me. I plan to get back to the starting lineup again hopefully soon and get some more playing time."
The coaching change may have initially seen Corona's playing time reduced but he is excited for its long term potential. Part of the reason is that Mohamed now has Corona playing in his most comfortable position.
Ever since Corona turned professional, he has mostly played on the wings and occasionally at forward. Now under Mohamed he is playing centrally in the midfield just behind the forwards.
"As a professional, most of the time I have been playing as a winger either on the right side, or the left side but most of the time I have been on the right," Corona discussed. "Right now under the new coach I have been subbing in as an attacking mid right behind the forwards. I'm feeling very comfortable at this position because I am getting the ball more. It's the position I played when I was young."
With the US U-23 team, Corona is unsure of where he will fit in and what position he will play under head coach Caleb Porter. For now Corona, is simply focused on making the US team for Olympic qualifying which begins in late March.
If Corona does make the US team, there is the potential for the US to take on Mexico in the qualifying tournament. Even though he wore El Tri's jersey as recently as September, Corona would love for the opportunity to face Mexico as a member of the United States. The game would have added incentive after being cut from their Pan Am team.
"It would be a great experience," Corona concluded. "If I ever have to play against Mexico, it would be a great opportunity for me to show them that I have the talent and in the future they could say ‘we should have had him.'"