Tuesday, April 17, 2012
CHIVAS USA: Price was right for Correa
By Scott French
CARSON -- The most difficult aspect in Chivas USA's pursuit of Colombian forward Jose Erick Correa was that the youngster kept scoring goals.
Correa, whose transfer from Colombian top-tier club Boyaca Chico was finalized over the weekend and announced Tuesday afternoon by the Goats, scored six in his last seven games, and it seemed each one served to boost his price.
“He's a guy who's been scoring goals in the Colombian league every weekend, so it's tough to get him,” said Chivas assistant coach Carlos Llamosa, a Colombian-born former U.S. national-teamer who did much of the courting. “Those guys are the guys whose prices go up, but we're fortunate to have this guy on the team.”
He meets U.S. officials about a visa Wednesday, and the hope is he'll be in camp by the end of the week and perhaps available for Monday's MLS Reserve League game against Seattle.
“He's strong, he runs hard, he scores goals, he holds the ball well,” praised head coach Robin Fraser. “He can do a number of things, based on what we've seen. He can run at guys, he's got good speed, is physically strong. Can be a target guy. ... He's definitely one of the very promising forwards in Colombia.”
Said general manager Jose Domene: “We like his upside. He's only 19, he seems to be a kid that has a few chances a game for his team and makes the most it. He's fast, he's strong, but he still has a long ways to go to be a star. He's here to learn and, of course, score, if possible, but we're not looking to him to be the expert.”
The expectations is that Correa will learn from fellow Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel and veteran Alejandro Moreno, add to the competition for jobs up front, and develop into a player who can make the difference for the Goats.
Fraser likes that, in three years in Colombia's top flight, Correa has “played on teams where he's had to fight and battle,” where winning games hasn't come easy. Boyaca Chico is not one of the big clubs in the country -- such as Atletico Nacional, Juniors, Independiente Medellin or Millonarios -- although its current campaign in the top-tier Liga Postobon is going fairly well, seventh place with a 6-3-11 mark.
“He's been in tough situations, and if you're playing for a team that's year in and year out the best team, maybe it's not so difficult for you,” Fraser said. “He's been in situations where he's had to battle. [Boyaca Chico is] a team that grinds out their points. What you see in him is a good work rate and a willingness to do whatever his team needs him to do.”
Correa, who has 12 goals in 35 Liga Postobon games since debuting in August 2010, might not be 19. His registration says he'll be 20 in July, but one source within the club indicated he's actually 21 years old, which hardly would be a negative. He's in the Colombian national team's monthlong camp for domestic players but will be released when his visa is approved.
“I am very happy to make my dream come true, playing outside [Colombia] ...,” Correa said in a statement on the Liga Postobon website. “Boyaca Chico will always be my home, and I am very proud to belong to this wonderful institution. Now I only hope to do good things in the MLS to earn a spot on the [Chivas] team.”
The contract was complicated, and negotiations dragged out for several weeks. Domene said the deal was all but finalized two weeks ago, but according to sources familiar with the talks, Boyaca Chico's demands changed as Correa pumped in goals, scoring in successive matches in early March against Deportivo Cali, Itagüi Ditaires and Junors and again on April 1 against Millonarios. He scored twice in a 5-2 victory last weekend over Cucuta Deportivo.
Chivas USA released no details on the deal, but Boyaca Chico claimed it would retain 20 percent of Correa's rights in its announcement of the transfer on the Liga Postobon's website. It's a common approach to contracts with young players, serving as a sort of option for Chivas, which can take full ownership of the player with further payments after assessing his future with the club.