GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Los Angeles-born Joe Benny Corona joined up with the Mexico Under-22 squad this week, but his international future is far from set in stone.
The 21-year-old Club Tijuana winger — eligible for the United States, Mexico and El Salvador — has regularly stressed in interviews he would most likely go to the first of Mexico or the United States to call him up, even though Mexico would be his No. 1 choice. And Corona made good on that assertion.
The irony is that winger Corona let slip recently that he was on Bob Bradley's preliminary squad to face Mexico in last month's friendly. Corona admitted he would probably have accepted, but Bradley was sacked and the player missed out.
Mexico have since struck the first telling blow in the battle for Corona, who was brought up and educated on both sides of the border at different points of his life.
There are plenty of reasons to have hope for dual nationals, however.
All the US players MLSsoccer.com has interviewed in the last month that are based in Mexico — including Corona — are excited by Jurgen Klinsmann's plans for the team and especially his emphasis on involving Latino players.
The expected appointment of Martin Vasquez as Klinsmann’s top assistant can only help. The first player to play for both Mexico and the United States is better-placed than anybody to guide dual nationals towards the USMNT and to give them the appropriate advice.
Vasquez knows the decision over national teams is not a stark, black-and-white one, but is of varying shades of gray, depending on the different personal situations.
That includes Corona. Even if he appears for the Mexican youth side, he'll still be eligible to make a one-time switch to the USMNT set-up, should he be given that opportunity.
For now, Mexico have the upper hand in the race to field the attacker. But as we’ve seen over the past month, things can — and do — change.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @mexicoworldcup