Club: Club Tijuana
With Bruce Arena’s return to the United States Men’s National Team, a few players who were on the outside of the setup looking in during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure have returned to the fold. One of those is Joe Corona, and he is taking advantage of his opportunity.
Prior to this summer, Corona’s last USMNT appearances came in the 2015 Gold Cup. He’s been out of the picture since after appearing on the rosters for
Corona was born in 1990 in Los Angeles to parents from Mexico and El Salvador. His family moved to Tijuana when Corona was still a child, then back to San Diego, where he attended high school. During his time in high school, Corona began playing with Nomads Academy in San Diego, and he accepted an offer to play at San Diego State, where he scored three goals in his only season. After his freshman year, Corona signed on with Club Tijuana, joining their youth academy in 2009.
He spent parts of two years in the youth team before jumping into the senior side in the 2010 Clausura season, scoring his first goal that September. The next season was Corona’s breakout campaign as he made 39 appearances and scored six goals in the second tier, helping lift Tijuana into the Primera Division.
That garnered the attentions of both the U.S. national team and the Mexican outfit. Bob Bradley was quickest to react, naming Corona in the preliminary roster for an August 2011 match against Mexico, but Bradley was fired before the official squad was released, and Corona wasn’t included. That opened the door for the Mexican side to call him in, and he accepted a call-up to play in a two-legged friendly set against Chile’s U-22 team in preparation for the 2011 Pan Am Games. He appeared in one of the two contests; however, as it was not an official FIFA match, Corona wasn’t cap-tied to Mexico, and he later earned a call-up to the U.S. U-23 side.
He made an immediate impact, scoring a hat trick in a 6-0 demolition of Cuba in an Olympic qualifier. Corona would find the net again in a game against his mother’s home country, El Salvador, but the Salvadorans hit back late to earn a draw and eliminate the U.S. from contention for the 2012 Olympics.
Later in 2012, Corona made his first USMNT appearance in a friendly against Scotland, and he would officially become cap-tied to the U.S. in October of that year, coming on as a substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala. Along with his impressive performances for Tijuana, his early showings for the U.S. earned Corona a spot in the 2013 Gold Cup roster, where he appeared in four of the six games and scored twice as the USMNT won the tournament.
However, in the ensuing years, his progress for both club and country stalled. After struggling in 2014, Corona was loaned out to Veracruz in 2015, where he appeared just nine times. He made the USMNT Gold Cup squad that summer, but appeared only twice, one of which was in the third-place game. He would again get sent out by Tijuana on loan, this time to second-tier side Dorados, in 2016, where he got a longer look, but he still seemed far away from approaching his potential.
In 2017, though, Corona has turned his luck around. He’s experienced a resurgence with Tijuana, scoring as a substitute in the second game of the Primera Division season. That earned him a spot in the starting lineup which, outside of a month on the sidelines due to injury, he’s held on to, adding another goal and two assists in 17 starts. His did enough to catch Arena’s eye, earning a spot in the Gold Cup squad and playing the full 90 minutes against Ghana in the warm up game and Panama in the opener.
Corona struggled in that first Gold Cup game and wasn’t included in the second contest of the group stage as the USMNT edged by Martinique, but he was
Now, Corona has a big chance in front of him as the knockout rounds approach. He’s probably on the fringes of the starting squad, and he could certainly find himself on the pitch come kickoff Wednesday evening against El Salvador. Even if he doesn’t, he’s likely earned himself another look at some point in the knockout stage, which became evident by Arena keeping him in the squad.
Corona isn’t a player who is likely to wow supporters with breathtaking displays of skill, but he’s a hard-working midfielder, and he’s capable of delivering quality in the final third. If he can show more of that in the coming contests, he’ll put himself squarely in Arena’s thoughts as the USMNT prepares for a pair of critical World Cup qualifiers in September. And, if he’s able to sneak into the squads for those games, he could easily do enough to earn further looks ahead of next summer. Everything is on Corona’s shoulders for now, though; the upcoming week will be a huge one in his career.