GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Friday night's game in Mexico between Estudiantes Tecos and Club Tijuana couldn't have gone much better for Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Greg Garza.
The team got a 2-0 victory against one of its relegation rivals, making it virtually impossible for the newest Primera División side to be relegated and pushing the side up safely into the playoff places.
Castillo (above) again impressed, starting as a winger and later dropping back to slot in at left back, from where he set up Club Tijuana's opening goal in the 68th minute, picking the ball up outside the penalty area, slaloming through the Tecos defense and getting the assist for José Sand's tap-in.
A delighted Castillo told MLSsoccer.com he feels he is reaching the level of performance that made him one of the top prospects in the Mexican league when he played for Santos Laguna four years ago.
“I think I'm there and I can give more,” a beaming Castillo told MLSsoccer.com after the game.
US youngster Joe Corona also made a vital contribution, with his entrance at halftime when the score was 0-0 a catalyst for Club Tijuana's more adventurous and threatening second-half display.
“That's what we came for, to get a win to put them more in a hole and we accomplished it,” said Corona outside the Tres de Marzo stadium.
To cap off the night for Club Tijuana's American first-team players, 20-year-old Greg Garza entered the field in the 84th minute for his second appearance of the season.
“It's been a while, but it always feels good to get on the pitch and even more when you're winning 2-0,” said the Texan. “This was a huge win for us, we'll all go home happy.”
National team situations
The rejuvenated Castillo has his eyes firmly fixed on another shot with the senior team and, eventually, a trip to Brazil 2014.
“I want to get back onto the national team,” he said. “I want to go to the qualifiers and – why not? – go to the World Cup.”
The evolution of the Las Cruces, N.M., native's role with Tijuana, from left back to wing back to winger and back again, does not bother the 25-year-old in terms of his national team chances.
“In the national team, [Jurgen] Klinsmann puts me at the back, but here the coach puts me in the front, but it doesn't matter,” Castillo emphasized.
The Xolos' win capped an excellent week for Corona, who took to the field for Club Tijuana less than 48 hours after playing 90 minutes for the US Olympic team in their 2-0 victory over Mexico's U-23s in Frisco, Texas.
Corona cites the consistent minutes he has seen recently with his club as being vital to propelling him into the Olympic squad frame.
He admits the game against Mexico, for whom he played on a trip to Chile back in September, was special, and he adds there was some banter flying during the game, but is relaxed about the situation and clearly looking forward to future involvement with the US.
“I have friends in the Mexican national team, but that's something apart from the game,” said a laid-back Corona. “I'm going to be cool. I get out there, I do my thing and that's all I worry about.”
Garza returned from the US U-23 squad with Corona and, although he didn’t see minutes in the game against Mexico, is awaiting the announcement of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying squad with his fingers crossed.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.