MEXICO: U.S. prods Corona's choice

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
1:14
PM PT

Jurgen Klinsmann's radar for Latino talent is sharper than his predecessors', as America's Edgar Castillo, San Luis' Michael Orozco Fiscal and Pachuca's Jose Francisco Torres can attest.


The best of the Americans in Mexico -- not counting Tigres' Moises Orozco, not yet a first-teamer -- might be Club Tijuana's flank attacker Joe Corona, and he, like so much of the U.S.'s top Latin talent, has a choice to make.

Corona is eligible to play for the U.S., Mexico or El Salvador, and he has options, so it seems, with all three. He's in camp with the Mexicans' under-22 team -- the foundation of the Federacion's Olympic aspirations -- after an invitation to join the U.S. national team was scuttled by Klinsmann's hiring.

That's what Corona told his hometown newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune: He was invited by Bob Bradley into the U.S. camp for the Aug. 10 U.S.-Mexico game in Philadelphia, and when Bradley was canned and Klinsmann hired, the invitation was rescinded.

Mexico followed with the U-22 invite, and Corona -- born in L.A., formative years in Tijuana, in National City since he was 10 -- has always figured first come, first served.

He's already turned down El Salvador, his mother's homeland, but says playing for El Tri is “my dream.”

“We moved to Mexico right after I was born, and that’s where soccer was introduced to me,” Corona told the Union-Tribune. “In the South Bay [area of San Diego], it’s a Mexican culture, too. I was always in that environment. All my friends, when we would watch the U.S.-Mexico games, we were hardcore fans of Mexico.

“It’s not like I’m saying no to the U.S. But playing in an Olympics for Mexico, that would be an incredible experience.”

Klinsmann last week told us Corona was “not yet there for the senior national team” and that his progress is being tracked.

“Now he's invited for the Mexican team, that's fine. It's fine,” Klinsmann said. “It doesn't change too much. He gets now that experience, and if he's open-minded to get the other experience ... then we will give it a try and a talk. It will be ultimately his decision.”

Corona won't be cap-tied to Mexico (to anybody) until he plays in a senior competition, such as the World Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup or qualifying for either. He could suit up for El Tri next year in London and still join the U.S. team -- junior internationals may make one switch at the senior level. But the U.S. has lost the inside track: If Mexico wants him, he's probably theirs.
  • THE TOP 3

1. CHEPO'S STREAK

Mexico's national team did just fine in Europe, rallying for a 1-1 draw in Poland and beating Chile, 1-0, in Barcelona. Andres Guardado was the prime figure, sending in the corner kick for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez's 22nd international goal (in just 31 caps) against the Poles and bending in a late free kick in Spain.

The buzz around El Tri, that just maybe they really, really could win the World Cup, has been fueled by the impressive record since Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre took charge late last year. Mexico is 10-0-4 since February, the longest unbeaten streak to start a Mexican coach's tenure. It's also the third-longest in FMF history, behind Ricardo Lavolpe's 21 (2004-05) and Nacho Trelles' 18 (1962-66).

Chepo passed former U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic, who didn't lose until his ninth game with El Tri, during the CONCACAF Gold Cup title run.

2. NEW BOSS IN TORREON

Santos Laguna's downturn has cost Diego Cocca his job. The Argentine manager was dismissed after Friday's 3-2 loss at Jaguares, the club's third in a row, all competitions.

Might Bradley be next in line? Reports in Torreon have the former U.S. national team coach in town for talks with the club after negotiations with Egypt led nowhere.

Santos is winless in four league games after routing Pachuca and Atlante to start the Apertura, and it's coming off a 2-0 loss in CONCACAF Champions League group play to El Salvador's Isidro Metapan, an unacceptable result.

Cocca was 6-8-3 since taking over seven games into the spring Clausura for Ruben Omar Romano, who guided the Guerreros to the final in last year's Apertura. Santos is 14th in the current standings.

“We conclude,” Santos president Alejandro Irarragori said at the news conference announcing Cocca's firing, “that it is not enough.”

Eduardo Rergis will serve as interim coach during the search for a replacement, Bradley or otherwise.

3. TOO EARLY TO PANIC?

Club Tijuana is finding during its first season in the top flight that points don't come easy in the Primera Division. The Xoloitzcuintles have claimed only five in seven games and sit 17th of 18 teams with a 1-3-2 record.

The tough results aren't so worrisome. The Xolos have played a rough schedule -- Morelia, Monterrey, Santos, Cruz Azul and Guadalajara so far -- and have been in every game.

Two things are cause for concern:

Tijuana is not getting results in front of big, adoring crowds at Estadio Caliente. The Xolos couldn't be beaten at home in the second-tier Liga de Ascenso -- they went 15-0-7 during last season's split campaigns -- and they can't win there now. They're 0-2-2 and have led all of eight minutes, in a 1-1 draw with Puebla.

The league's bottom clubs -- the ones lowest in the percentage table used to determine relegation -- are doing well, Atlas aside. Tijuana's chief aim is to climb comfortably away from the bottom, and decent starts by Estudiantes Tecos (9 points), Gallos Blancos (8) and Jaguares (11) makes that task much tougher. That is, if the Xolos were winning points.

Tijuana needs to find a few wins in the Clausura so that it doesn't face a steep climb next spring, when a few early losses might lead to real panic. Somewhere around 37 or 38 points over the fall/spring seasons ought to be enough, especially if Atlas can't fix things, although a few more would help in next year's battle.
  • QUICK KICKS

Guadalajara is back on top, with 16 points (from a 5-1-1 mark), following the win at Tijuana, its third victory in four road games. ... Santos and San Luis held first-half leads in their 3-2 losses. Luis Gabriel Rey scored twice for Jaguares against Santos; Jaime Lozano struck twice, once from the penalty spot, for Morelia against San Luis. ... America would consider bringing back Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who is under contract to Irapuato in the Liga de Ascenso. Blanco will be 39 in January.

  • THE NUMBERS

PRIMERA DIVISION
Last week's results (home teams listed first)
Jornada 3
Friday
Club Tijuana 0, Guadalajara 1 (Reynoso 39)
Jaguares de Chiapas 3 (Arizala 53, Rey 57, 74), Santos 2 (Cardenas 13, Enrique 82)
Sunday
San Luis 2 (M. Arroyo pen. 31, I. Blanco 94+), Morelia 3 (J. Lozano 39, pen. 77, J. Rojas 40)

Standings: 1. Guadalajara 16 points; 2. Cruz Azul 14; 3. UANL Tigres 13; 4. Monterrey 12; 5. Pumas UNAM 11; 6. Jaguares 11; 7. Pachuca 10; 8. Toluca 10; 9. Estudiantes Tecos 9; 10. San Luis 9; 11. Puebla 9; 12. America 8; 13. Gallos Blancos 8; 14. Santos Laguna 7; 15. Morelia 7; 16. Atlante 6; 17. Tijuana 5; 18. Atlas 4

Relegation percentage: 1. Tijuana (7 games/5 points) 0.7143; 2. Estudiantes Tecos (75/80) 1.0667; 3. Atlas and Gallos Blancos (75/82) 1.0933; 5. Jaguares and Atlante (75/88) 1.1733. Atop the list: 1. Cruz Azul (75/137) 1.8267; 2. Monterrey (75/136) 1.8133; 3. Santos Laguna (74/115) 1.5540

This week's games (all times Pacific)
Jornada 8
Friday
Jaguares at Estudiantes Tecos, 6:10 p.m.
Saturday
Morelia at Cruz Azul, 3 p.m.
Pumas UNAM at Gallos Blancos, 3 p.m.
Guadalajara at Santos Laguna, 5 p.m.
Pachuca at UANL Tigres, 5 p.m.
San Luis at Atlas, 6:45 p.m.
Sunday
Monterrey at Puebla, 10 a.m.
Tijuana at Toluca, 10 a.m.
Atlante at America, 2 p.m.
Schedule subject to change

Goals leaders
1. Christian Benitez (America) 5
Dayro Moreno (Tijuana) 5
3. Oribe Peralta (Santos) 4
Luis Perez (Monterrey) 4
Luis Gabriel Rey (Jaguares) 4
6. Ivan Alonso (Toluca) 3
Franco Arizala (Jaguares) 3
Jaime Ayovi (Pachuca) 3
Christian Bermudez (Atlante) 3
Carlos Bueno (Gallos Blancos) 3
Nestor Calderon (Toluca) 3
Luis Garcia (Puebla) 3
Giancarlo Maldonado (Atlante) 3
Hector Mancilla (UANL Tigres) 3
Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) 3

LIGA DE ASCENSO
Last week's results (home teams listed first)
No games scheduled

Standings: 1. La Piedad 12; 2. Toros Neza 11; 3. Leon 11; 4. Pumas Morelos 10; 5. Irapuato 9; 6. Necaxa 7; 7. Altamira 7; 8. Dorados de Sinaloa 6; 9. Leones Negros 6; 10. Correcaminos 5; 11. Lobos BUAP 5; 12. Celaya 5; 13. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 4; 14. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 4; 15. Veracruz 4; 16. Merida 2

This week's games (all times Pacific)
Jornada 6
Friday
La Piedad at Altamira, 5 p.m.
Lobos BUAP at Necaxa, 6 p.m.
Saturday
Pumas Morelos at Merida, 5 p.m.
Irapuato at Dorados, 5 p.m.
Toros Neza at Indios, 5 p.m.
Leones Negros at Leon, 6 p.m.
Correcaminos at Celaya, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday
Veracruz at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 10 a.m.
Schedule subject to change

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