There was a time and it wasn't long ago that you would rarely find a Hispanic player, let alone a Mexican-American player in uniform for the U.S. National Soccer Team. In the 90s, a handful of players such as Marcelo Balboa, Fernando Clavijo, Tab Ramos and Hugo Perez were regular contributors, but there weren't many others that made much of an impact. That is all changing under now that former German superstar Jurgen Klinsmann is calling the shots as the USMNT
The U.S. team plays tonight at Qualcomm Stadium in a Gold Cup tune-up match against Guatemala (kick-off 8:00 p.m.) Among those vying for playing time tonight will be a record six players currently playing in Liga MX including three from Tijuana's League Champion Xolos (Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo). In addition, three others of Hispanic origins will be suiting up for the U.S.A. The broadened talent search under Klinsmann is already paying dividends and will likely continue doing so as the U.S. prepares for next year's World Cup to be hosted by Brazil.
Former Sweetwater High School 2008 Player of the Year Joe Corona, who now stars for Tijuana's Xolos, is one of the rising Mexican-American stars. La Prensa San Diego caught up with him Tuesday as he arrived in the downtown San Diego team hotel. Naturally, he is excited to play for the first time in his hometown as a member of the U.S. National Soccer Team.
"I haven't touched bases with coach (on the amount of playing time) but I want to be a big part of the game whether or not I start," Corona said. "They usually use me as an attacking midfielder, but sometimes I play out on the wings, but I will play anywhere. It doesn't really matter. The game is just a friendly, but I am really looking forward to it. It's a different feeling playing here in San Diego where I grew up and knowing that I am going to have my whole family behind me."
Corona comes from an interesting family. His father was born in Mexico. His mother was born in El Salvador and he was born here in the U.S. As a result, Corona was eligible for three national teams.
"I grew up here and the United States team was the first team to contact me. They built a relationship with me and took the initiative. I thought that was more important than anything else. I have never had any regrets. I am very happy here. I feel at home. My relationship with our coach and the other players has been very good. I want to keep it that way and become somebody important here like I was when I played for Sweetwater High."
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