GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Joe Corona’s fortunes may just be on the up at the perfect time, with the small matter of the World Cup creeping up.
The 23-year-old has started the last two Xolos games and impressed, as he also did against the LA Galaxy in Tijuana’s CONCACAF Champions League triumph last month.
The return to form comes from Tijuana coach César Farías instilling in him confidence and Corona finding some rhythm after a nagging ankle injury that hampered his first quarter of 2014.
“After the injury, it took me a while to get back into rhythm, but right now I’m back at 100 percent,” Corona told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday, ahead of his side’s CCL semifinal second leg against Cruz Azul in Mexico City on Wednesday (8 pm ET, Fox Sports 2, Univision Deportes).
With the race for US national team places heating up for Brazil 2014, Corona wasn’t taken into consideration for last week’s friendly against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz., with the fixture being a non-FIFA date and his club unwilling to grant his release.
“[US Soccer] talked to the club,” sid the Los Angeles-born Corona. “Because we had an important game in the [CCL], the club thought it was more important for us than the national-team game.”
It is understandable from a club so fixated on international competition, but Corona still believes his performances since debuting for the USMNT in May 2012 against Scotland means he remains very much in the final reckoning for Brazil.
“Klinsmann knows me very well,” Corona said. “During qualifying games and the Gold Cup he got to see me, and I think I could bring a lot of creativity. I’m always trying to help the team, and I try to score goals.”
A major plus for Corona is his versatility.
The US coach has previously talked to Corona about his potential “multi-functional” role, and he said he is confident the USMNT coaching staff understands what they get with him.
“I think they know how I can help in the World Cup if I get the chance,” said the bilingual attacking midfielder.
Corona – who lives in the United States and commutes to Tijuana – may be as relaxed a player as you are likely to meet off the field, but he is under no illusion about what is at stake in every game he plays from here to the end of the season. The good news for him is that he likely has time to impress, with Xolos still involved in the CCL and the Liga MX playoff race.
“I’m playing for a lot: the starting position [at Tijuana], the need to stay in rhythm and to hopefully get a call-up to the national team,” he said.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.