Los Angeles Soccer: Club America
The Galaxy continues to work on its roster, working on new deals with Sean Franklin, Juninho and a few others while awaiting decisions by, at the least, David Beckham and Chris Birchall.
Might they also need to find a replacement for Omar Gonzalez?
Major League Soccer's Defender of the Year is being pursued by Mexico City giant Club America, ESPN Deportes' Fernando Schwartz posted to his Twitter account.
The gist of Schwartz's text: The Aguilas aren't after New York Red Bulls defender/midfielder Rafa Marquez, the Mexican national team captain, but rather the young Galaxy star.
Gonzalez, 23, a 6-foot-5 Texan, had a tremendous impact for the Galaxy in his third Major League Soccer campaign, anchoring their backline as the team tied the league mark with 17 shutouts during the regular season, three in the CONCACAF Champions League and two more in the MLS Cup playoffs.
He was MLS's Rookie of the Year in 2009 and an MLS Best XI selection and Defender of the Year finalist in 2010.
OXNARD -- Joe Corona celebrated the end of his participation in Club Tijuana's Ventura County training camp with a goal. Edgar Castillo gave his new team a solid 90 minutes.
And a nearly full stadium at Channel Islands High School got a nice glimpse of the Xolos, who have one major assignment -- stay in the top division -- when the Mexican Primera Division's Clausura campaign begins next month.
Tijuana routed a select side from the Ventura County United Soccer Leagues, 5-0, in a friendly Wednesday night, the Xolos' second game of the day as their weeklong camp in Oxnard neared its finish. That's it for Corona, who was set to fly early Thursday morning to Florida for the U.S. under-23 national team's camp.
“It's a good opportunity. It's something I'm really looking forward to,” said Corona, 21, who was born in Los Angeles, grew up in San Diego and left San Diego State following his freshman year to sign with Tijuana. “The Olympics, not a lot of people are fortunate to go. Hopefully, I can be part of that.”
This is the second camp for Corona with the U23s, who are preparing for CONCACAF's qualifiers, in March, for next year's London Olympics, and it follows a camp with Mexico's U22s, the foundation of El Tri's Olympic side. He's eligible for both countries -- and El Salvador -- and it looked like he would be playing for Mexico after U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, right after his hiring at the end of July, rescinded an invitation from former coach Bob Bradley.
Klinsmann prefers to bring young talent along through the youth national teams, such as the U23s, and Corona's experience with the Mexican squad boosted his U.S. desires. He was part of the first U23 camp during Klinsmann's regime, last month in Germany, and is among 30 players U.S. U23 coach Caleb Porter has summoned to Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
“I first had a call-up for Mexico. Unfortunately, I didn't have as much playing time,” Corona said. “I didn't feel that they took me seriously. That's why I chose to take a shot at the U.S. national team, see how it goes.
“My last call-up, in Germany, went well, and I played in both games. I thought it was a great experience. Hopefully, it keeps going.”
Corona has great promise. He's played up front and on the flanks for Tijuana, but Antonio Mohamed, who took charge in September, midway through the fall Apertura championship, has used him as an attacking midfielder, his natural post.
The bad news: The Chapines are going to have to mature, and fast, to contend with those foes.
The Mexico City powerhouse played a first-choice lineup -- all but injured Rosinei -- in its next-to-last prep before the Mexican Primera Division kicks off its Clausura season the second weekend of January, and it looks ready to make two title runs: in the domestic championship and Copa Libertadores.
The three-pronged attack -- Vicente Sanchez, Matias Vuoso and Daniel Montenegro, with midfielders Miguel Layun and newcomer Nicolas Olivera plus right back Oscar Rojas in support -- deserved more than it produced, and veteran Pavel Pardo masterfully laid a foundation in midfield for the attackers. And goalkeeper Memo Ochoa, America's reigning superstar, handled almost everything the game Guatemalans threw at him.
America went ahead on Vuoso's 19th-minute penalty kick -- Jaime Vides clipped Sanchez after a superb ball into space from Olivera -- and asserted command on a game-altering, end-to-end sequence about 10 minutes before the end of the first half.
The Chapines' inexperienced lineup had stayed with America the first 35 minutes. Carlos Figueroa, one of just five starters with more than 15 caps, was alternately awful and awesome, and he was both at a crucial juncture.
Organizers promise that Wednesday's meeting between Club America and Guatemala's national team is the beginning of an annual series, with the Mexican giant taking on a different "international" team each winter -- and with a trophy at stake.
That aside, the 7 p.m. Home Depot Center clash (ESPN Deportes) is little more than your everyday preseason friendly. The Aguilas, semifinalists in the Mexican Primera Division's fall Apertura, are working toward their Clausura opener Jan. 9 against Pachuca. Guatemala is beginning preparations for the Jan. 14-23 Copa Centroamericana, which will send five teams (of seven competitors) to next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"It's a very serious game," America coach Manuel Lapuente said Tuesday afternoon. "It's our second-to-last game of preseason, and we don't have a lot of time left. We really need this game, because we have to show what we've got for the [Clausura]."
Five things about Wednesday's "El Reto Aguila" encounter:
1. TWO HOME TEAMS?
Neither of these teams are strangers to Southern California, and both have significant followings here. America is, with Guadalajara, one of Mexico's two true giants, and they're making their third 2010 appearance in L.A. Many Guatemalans live in SoCal, and they're getting to see their team for the third time this year, too.
America played two games at HDC during last January's InterLiga event, draws with Estudiantes Tecos and Monterrey, and beat Cruz Azul on July 10 at the Rose Bowl. Guatemala played two Coliseum friendlies, beating El Salvador in March and losing to Honduras in October.
2. AMERICA'S STARS
America made few changes from a side that made a nice late-season run during the Apertura, adding midfielder Nicolas Olivera from Puebla and bringing back defender Rodrigo Iņigo from Gallos Blancos de Queretaro. The big stars: goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa, midfielder Pavel Pardo -- Ochoa is a Mexican national team standourt, Pardo a former El Tri star -- forwards Matias Vuoso, Vicente Sanchez and Daniel Montenegro, and defender Aquivaldo Mosquera.
Mexico will begin preparations in February for next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup with a game in Atlanta.
The Mexican federation and Soccer United Marketing, Major League Soccer's marketing arm, announced Thursday that El Tri will face Bosnia and Herzegovina on Feb. 9 at the Georgia Dome.
The partnership between Federacion Mexicana de Futbol and SUM is in its ninth year.
In addition, Barcelona has announced its preseason plans for next summer, which will include games in Washington (July 30 vs. Manchester United), Miami (Aug. 3 vs. AC Milan) and Arlington, Texas (Aug. 6 vs. Club America).