CARSON, Calif. – Joe Corona has been on the LA Galaxy's wish list for some time, so when the opportunity arose to bring in the US national team veteran following Giovani dos Santos' departure, things came together very quickly.
The longtime Club Tijuana midfielder was announced as a new signing Wednesday, and could see his initial MLS action when the Galaxy visit FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon (3:30 pm ET | Univision, Twitter.com in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
“It's a great opportunity for me,” Corona said following Thursday's training session at Dignity Health Sports Park. “I've always wanted to come here and play in MLS. It was one of my goals as a professional soccer player, and I think it is the right time.”
Dos Santos' departure, after he and the Galaxy failed to reach an agreement on a restructured contract following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's offseason deal that left the club with one Designated Player too many, provided the impetus, and LA's interest was clear: He's been on the club's discovery list for nearly a decade.
“To be honest, I think he's always been a little bit related to the Galaxy ...,” said general manager Dennis te Kloese, who has spent much of his career in Mexico and knows well the game south of the border. “I think now with the move that we made last week and the player-personnel moves that were formalized, it actually was just taking advantage of the opportunity.
“I must say I have a good relationship with Tijuana, and I appreciated their help with this. I think the player was really eager also to come, very interested in coming here. He has a lot of family close by. He spent a lot of time on the other side of the border, at Tijuana, and I think overall, by [Club Tijuana] being very appreciative of what he brought them and being able to release him here, I think we couldn't pass on the opportunity, to be honest.”
It was a simple decision for the 28-year-old Los Angeles native, who grew up in Tijuana and San Diego. He'd seen just 70 minutes of action in three appearances through the Xolos' first nine Liga MX 2019 Clausura matches this winter after returning from a yearlong loan at Club América and was itching to get onto the field.
“It was a little surprising [how things were in Tijuana after rejoining the club],” Corona acknowledged. “I just worked to be able to get playing time, I didn't get as much playing time as I thought I was [going to receive], but things happen for a reason, and now I'm here.”
Corona said it was “more than obvious” that he didn't fit into new Xolos manager Oscar Pareja's plans, that “I wasn't even making the [18-man game-day] roster sometimes.”
“I said yes immediately when they reached out to me and told me the Galaxy wanted to take me,” he said. “I was happy that the negotiations went through, and I'm here now.”
LA's interest began eight years ago during a preseason friendly with Club Tijuana, then angling for promotion from the second-tier Liga de Ascenso to Mexico's top division, in the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium. Corona, playing on the wing, was the standout in a 2-2 draw.
Bruce Arena, the Galaxy's coach and GM at the time, was asked afterward who he liked from the Xolos.
“I think their No. 15,” he said.
Told that No. 15 was from San Diego and had played at San Diego State, Arena was taken aback.
“He's a San Diego kid? Wow,” he said. “Can we get him for the Galaxy? He's a good player.”
He reportedly showed up on the Galaxy's discovery list not long after.
Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto had seen Corona play for Tijuana and América.
“I think he manages the ball really good,” he said. “He's got a lot of experience in teams that win the championship, like Tijuana [in the 2012 Apertura] or with America [in last year's Apertura]. ... I think he's the player we are looking for during the winter for a midfielder. He can play a lot of positions -- in the middle, on the right, one the left, a little more wide -- so the kind of player we need for the whole season.”
Corona said Barros Schelotto wants him to be a two-way midfielder, something of a deputy of Jonathan dos Santos.
“We talked a little bit of what position I feel more confident in,” he said. “He wants me to be a midfielder who can help going forward and also defensively. Kind of a No. 8. Throughout my career, I've played in different positions, so I feel comfortable playing as a 5, 8, 6.”
Said te Kloese: “He can fill different roles, he can be useful in different systems. ... It's a kid that now has some experience: he played at a good level in Mexico, he's an American international. I think those are all positive for us.”
Galaxy center back Daniel Steres was Corona's teammate when they were freshmen at San Diego State -- Corona left after one year to join Club Tijuana – and midfielder Sebastian Lletget played with Corona in youth national team camps.
“He gives us options,” said Lletget, who returned this week from a preseason hamstring injury. “I think we need that in our team. We do need the depth. It's going to be a long season, and Joe's a good player, and he's going to be a good midfielder for us. We'll see how we fix it all up, but I think it will be very good. It will be a new look to the team.”
Corona, who has 23 USMNT caps since 2012, hopes he can make a case for Gregg Berhalter to bring him back into the national team. He last played for the Yanks in a draw with France last June in Lyon.
“I want to be back with the national team,” he said, “so hopefully I get a lot of minutes here and I help the team win games and, hopefully, be on the lookout for the national team.”