FULLERTON, Calif. – It was a match full of ups and downs for young José Erick Correa, but in the end, his brace for Chivas USA in their 2-1 US Open Cup quarterfinal victory over the Charlotte Eagles may have just showed the Colombian forward's potential to become one of MLS’ top young strikers.
After being injured for three games due to a right hamstring strain, the 19-year-old appeared unencumbered by his injury on Tuesday night, scoring twice and bringing his goal total to four in all competitions since arriving from Colombian club Boyacá Chicó in April.
“I felt good, I was coming off an injury and I came back with a lot of expectations to play,” Correa told reporters after the game. “Throughout the entire match, I was trying my best and I want to make sure that I can do my part to help the team be champions.”
While Correa was pleased with his part in helping the Rojiblancos advance to the semifinals for the second time in franchise history, head coach Robin Fraser felt the teenager’s performance was emblematic of his seamless transition to MLS.
“I think some people come in and take a step back and look around and I think José just jumped in with two feet," Fraser said. "He’s competed from the first game he stepped onto the field and he’s battled and scored some very important goals for us. He understands the league and how soccer in this country works and his adaptation process has been great."
Throughout the match, Correa’s work rate was tireless as he helped create several opportunities while working alongside Juan Agudelo and Juan Pablo Ángel. His energy was not without its pitfalls as he was perhaps too eager in the 30th minute when he leapt in front of teammate Laurent Courtois' volley that appeared to be going into the back of the net, heading it over the bar.
“I took it out of the goal for him – that was his goal,” Correa admitted. “I tried to make it better and unfortunately I damaged that play.”
Correa’s redemption came in the 64th minute when an Agudelo through-ball sliced through the Charlotte defense, allowing Correa to slot home the opening goal. But with both teams tiring and extra time looming, even the tireless Correa needed a little extra push from one of his teammates to score the game winning goal.
“I was arriving at that ball with not a lot of strength and [Ángel] pushed me from the back with a lot of strength,” Correa said describing his stoppage time goal. “The next thing I know, he yells, 'Goal!' and then I turn around. Practically his whole strength on that goal was from him.”
Now with a more than a week to rest, Correa is likely to play a major role for the Rojiblancos when they take the field next on July 7 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. While it remains to be seen if Correa place among the top young strikers in MLS will pan out, he is just happy to contribute again.
“I was hurt for a few weeks but I thank God with the work that I’ve done,” said Correa. “My doctors and the physical preparation gave me the opportunity to come back to the pitch quickly and show in this game that we’re working well.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.