CARSON, Calif. – José Erik Correa has lofty goals for club and country, and he believes his new career with Chivas USA could be his ticket to greatness.
After leaving his hometown of Acandí-Choco in Colombia’s rural north at age 10 to pursue his professional career, Correa sealed his next great adventure with a few stellar seasons for Boyacá Chicó. He tallied 12 goals in 35 matches after making his professional debut in 2010 and quickly earned the distinction as one of the nation’s brightest young stars.
While Correa prepares to makes another leap in search of professional success, the 19-year-old forward joins 32 of his countrymen in MLS – a fact that the youngster admits influenced his decision to come to the United States.
“There are a lot of Colombians here because this is a great place to be able to take the first step toward trying to get to Europe or to stay here and make a name for yourself in MLS,” he said.
Like many of his countrymen, Correa believes that joining MLS will help keep him on the radar of the Colombian national team. But perhaps unlike some of his compatriots, Correa joins the league after participating in a domestic training camp under the watchful eye of national team head coach José Pékerman.
With Copa América and World Cup qualifiers on his mind, Correa described the call-up as a “tremendous honor,” but he’s also well aware that he must work hard if he wants to build his profile with his new club and his national team.
“I’m just hoping to do things right, because you never know when the coach of the national team is watching,” he said. “Colombia has always played well and I’m just hoping to do things right, because I never knew that a club from the US was going to watch me. When you least expect it, then that is when things happen in your career.”
After speaking to Pékerman before heading to Los Angeles, Correa said the Argentine coach promised him that a move to MLS would not move him off his radar.
“He told me to be patient, work hard,” Correa said. “He said that he was going to watch the videos from Chivas and continue to do follow-ups and give me the opportunity to play with the national team.”
Correa’s international hopes certainly won’t be hindered by the presence of former Colombian international forward Juan Pablo Ángel. The longtime Aston Villa striker is well-admired in Colombia and made a total of 33 appearances for Los Cafeteros, scoring nine goals during a decade-long stint with the national team.
Since joining Chivas USA earlier this week, Correa has already played alongside Ángel during the club’s intra-squad scrimmages and has found the veteran more than willing to dispense his wisdom. While the youngster is eager to continue to grow his career with the Rojiblancos, Ángel feels Correa must be patient if he wants his flourish with Chivas and the Colombian national team.
“He’s a young guy and this is going to be his first experience as a player overseas,” Ángel told MLSsoccer.com. “As an organization, we need to help him adjust to life and the sport, which is obviously different than in Colombia, so that he can ultimately express himself on the field.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.