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Corona continues standout Gold Cup for USMNT with ’emotional’ strike

Corona (Getty)


BALTIMORE — Joe Corona is a man of layered roots, born in Los Angeles to a Mexican father and Salvadoran mother. Three nations to call home, but only one to represent on the field. And in that regard, he’s a prized piece of the U.S. Men’s National Team picture.

In the Gold Cup quarterfinals at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Corona pulled on his native nation’s jersey and faced the motherland. While Landon Donovan grabbed the headlines, scoring a goal and setting up four more, Corona laid claim to the 29th-minute strike that proved to be the winner in the Americans’ 5-1 triumph over El Salvador.

After collecting a pass from Chris Wondolowski at the top of the box, Corona cut to his left and drilled a shot into the lower corner before falling to his knees and pointing to the heavens.

“It was a very special moment,” Corona said. “It was the country that gave birth to my mom. It was very emotional.”

A part of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior squad since May 2012, Corona has found minutes hard to come by in a competitive midfield filled with proven veteran options.

But this experimental Gold Cup team has given Corona the opportunity to prove himself on the international level. In his five caps (four starts) this month, the playmaker has showed off the vision and technical proficiency that has made him a rising star for Club Tijuana in Mexico’s top flight.

“Joe is absolutely coming along,” Klinsmann said. “Joe is a very smart player. He can read the game really well, anticipate it really well. … Joe is now at a point where he understands what we ask and understands that the senior level is a different game.”

Corona’s first international goal was a scorching strike in a 4-1 win against Cuba last weekend. And his clever chip to Donovan sparked the counterattack that ended with Brek Shea’s late winner in a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday.

As Corona said, “Every time, I play with more confidence.” He displayed that poise against El Salvador, combining well with overlapping right back Michael Parkhurst as the U.S. attack largely flowed through that right flank.

“He created a bunch of chances again, his goal was very well taken,” Donovan said. “Since the first time I saw him a couple years ago, I think he’s grown leaps and bounds, and he keeps getting better and better.”

That development is evident in Corona’s increasing comfort level internationally. On Sunday, the 23-year-old enjoyed a rapport in an interchange-heavy midfield that featured Jose Torres on the opposite flank, Mix Diskerud as a deep-lying playmaker and Donovan in a free role behind the striker.

It was a welcome development for Corona, a player with recognized individual quality but previously unknown adaptability within Klinsmann’s system.

“Joe, he’s conquered a lot,” Torres said. “He’s a great player, and we try to learn a lot from each other, learning each other’s movements. And the good thing is that we understand each other.”

Added Diskerud: “He has great vision, good technique, and he doesn’t lose the ball a lot — I like playing with players like him.”

Although he typically plays a more central role for Tijuana, Corona has grown into his flank position with the U.S., providing width yet pinching inside to dictate possession at opportune moments. Going forward, it’s flexibility that can only help his cause.

So does he feel he’s shown enough to earn A-team minutes come World Cup qualifying?

“I’ve been scoring goals, I feel comfortable with the team now,” Corona said. “It’s been a long process with Jurgen, and every time he’s given me more confidence. So why not?”

The ultimate goal for Corona, of course, is to help the U.S. earn a place at next summer’s World Cup and book a ticket to Brazil as a part of Klinsmann’s 23-man roster.

While his odds of making that team may have seemed dubious before the Gold Cup, Corona’s emergence as a difference-maker over the past two weeks has, at the very least, put him firmly in the conversation.

“If the World Cup was next month, he’d definitely be on it,” said left back DaMarcus Beasley, captain of the Gold Cup squad. “He’s so comfortable on the ball, he’s working for the team defensively, offensively, and he’s chipping in with goals and assists. He’s a guy that’s very skillful.

“We look to get the ball to him — he makes things happen.”


  1. Corona has officially won me over after this latest match. I thought he was really poor in his first start (Guatamala?) where Klinsmann started him as the withdrawn striker. Ever since moving out wide, he has been much more comfortable and since scoring that first goal he has begun to have an impact on the matches. The long ball to Donovan that led to the Costa Rica goal and especially his poise at the top of the box before scoring against ES really opened my eyes. He also seems willing to track back and defend. He may be on his way to a world cup roster spot.

    On another note, I cant remember so many quality players that will have to be left off the world cup roster but it seems like this cycle there will be a lot. That has to be a good sign of progress.

  2. I like Corona’s game a lot. i thought he could be a key piece to the puzzle. It was a little frustrating seeing him brought into numerous camps and not finding the field, but JK has rightfully brought him along slowly. He’s competitive…brings some heat and edge. Reads the game really well, but the biggest thing is he takes his chances well…he’s a finisher. To have a crafty mid that is comfortable around the box and can finish is pure gold. I think that sets him apart and gets him on the plane.

  3. Dempsey finally found some joy playing the left wing in Spurs’ 4-2-3-1 this year when Bale moved inside. He’s not intuitively a wide player, but with AVB’s flowing style he looked very at home making runs in from the left. The poaching, playmaking, etc, happens from wide in the 4-3-3, and that’s what he could do if LD took the spot behind the striker.

    My main worry in that case would be Altidore. He clearly thrives off having another body in the box making intelligent runs. I don’t think that’s where we’d see LD; he feels like a more classic #10 at this point in his career, though that could be a function of playing with the b-team. Should also remember though that formations don’t have to be symmetrical. Deuce could be a close-in left-sided forward, and he and LD could do a lot of switching.

  4. that goal was well taken. Kid is composed on the ball with the knack. That’s a Dempsey kind of strike to me, in the right position then calm and simple approach…goal

  5. Corona has been solid; no doubt scouts have noticed. At age 23, Joe looks ripe to aim for a European league; I’m guessing next winter. Portugal, Spain, France or Italy could suit him, Joe just has to be confident of getting minutes where he lands.

    But yeah definitely one of the 23 tickets is not far from his grasp right now.

    • I agree. He doesn’t seem like an EPL or Bundesliga guy to me – they like pure size/speed prospects and Corona is a subtler bird than that – but Spain or Italy might suit him. I think of all the players on the team, Corona and Diskerud have just watched their trade value skyrocket. Very skilled, technically proficient guy who has the ability to operate in tight spaces, and it adds some finesse to what is often a distinctly blunt-force USA attack. Especially when opponents are packing ten behind the ball, you need to be able to one-touch and slick your way into very tight spaces and Corona gives us that.

      Like Corona a lot and he would add something to the 23, and he’s not a 1-for-1 replacement for Zusi. Zusi probably would do better against more vertical players, I think Corona is probably better in a more tactical match.

      • Don’t forget about Corona’s versatility – his natural position is CAM, which he plays for the club – which makes his performances at RM even more impressive.

  6. Beckerman had a great game, soild distribution and even some dangerous shots. Please stop hating on the man. He is what he is , which isnt to say he desrves A team minutes but is to say he deserves to be on the field with the USMNT set up.

  7. I liked that Corona, Torres, and Diskerud got themselves out of trouble well, usually. Less Corona than the other two, but he was still pretty good.

    Beckerman, OTOH, had a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde game. Did real well up to middle of the field + 10yds, did badly farther forward.

    • I actually didn’t have any complaints about Beckerman. He clogged up the passing lanes on defense and was generally availing himself to the ball in a spot to receive and distribute. He even got off a couple good shots on goal, which is all you really ask from a deep lying player. Both he and Mix struggled at points with ES’s midfield pressure, I think both had very solid performances. Sucks for Stu, but I still would love to see him at right back.

  8. Very composed play in a tight area and a wonderful finish, but before we go stamping his ticket to Brazil, let’s also remember this is El Salvador and even though the crowd was pro ES it was still a game on home soil against a pretty weak opponent.

    Good players will be left off the plane to Brazil, and that only points to good things in the future for the program.

  9. Corona’s development in this tournament is nothing short of amazing. We are watching a stud in the making. As for the guys up above trying to downplay Corona’s standout performance yesterday, well, you can only shake your head and wonder. Beasley, who knows a bit about soccer, says it best: “If the World Cup was next month, he’d definitely be on it.” I love Corona’s tenacity and fearlessness and desire to take on the opponent one-on-one and excellent p@sses. Plus, he can hold the ball with such poise. Corona is a winner and gotta hope like heck that this Gold Cup performance is not a flash in the pan. Quite frankly, I think Corona is ready to move to mid- to low-level team in a major European league.

  10. I think all the midfielders had a good game today and Beckerman’s pa$$ing was the best I can remember for the national team. Glad to hear Eric Wynalda give a shout out for Corona and their alma mater, San Diego State. Not only did Wynalda attend there, so did Marcelo Balboa, and at the same time. As a San Diego State alum and San Diego native, I couldn’t be prouder. Go get ’em Joe. And now the Xolos have another San Diegan, Arriola, who has started well and is only 18.

  11. We keep integrating guys with backgrounds like Corona into the USMNT and those 70,000 seat stadiums will gradually become solidly pro USA

    • I don’t think those type of crowds will become pro USA until the US win a World Cup.

      I’d be really interested and amused to see how many native born Americans that are 1st or 2nd generation put on the kits of their parents native country.

      • I see your point Old School. Maybe solidly pro US is a little ambitious. Those countries haven’t won World Cups and te US has been at or near the top of concacaf for a while. I think that the majority of the away fans at our “home” games root for their native land because they feel a connection to that country – whether they’re recent immigrants or first/second generation. For many years there haven’t been players on the US team which they could identify with. Of course the US team has fielded players who were first/second generation immigrants but many of those players were of European decent. I’d argue that as the USMNT becomes more representative of the Latino immigrant population, those populations will become more attached to our team. Maybe it’ll take a generation. But a young El Salvador fan who was at the game yesterday could look at Joe Corona and think, “that could be me. I have a real chance to play for the US team.”

        In any case, it will probably be a mixture of circumstances which lead to a pro US crowd in these games

  12. in honor of Corona’s excellent game I’m having a corona.

    Corona could have had two goals if it weren’t for a good save by the ES keeper.

  13. I never trusted Corona in the beginning because he never pulled the trigger on a wide open goal vs mexico in the tune up game for the U-23 Olympics.

    • What stigma? I’m the son of an Italian and Irish immigrant. I’m proud to be referred to as an Italian American, and Irish-American or an American. I see no stigma in talking baout his heritage, especially in a story that has a direct bearing on it. And there certianly is no stigma attached to having three countries want him.

      Serious – not calling you out, but I just don’t see it being a stigma of any kind. I think it’s something for him to be proud of.

      • I agree with Tony. The “battle” to keep promising dual-nationals in the US fold is a constant debate/discussion on this and almost every other US-centric soccer forum. We lament when a Subotic or a Rossi chooses to represent another flag, I don’t see a problem with a reminder that we do win some of these tugs-of-war and keep players who had other options but chose the Stars and Bars.

      • Uh, I am Italian and Irish, but I sure don’t go by Italian-American or Irish-American. The only country to hyphenate their origin. It gets out of hand IMO. I am an American that’s it enough said.

      • Lots of countries use the hyphenate, but it’s a relatively new phenomenon. We’ve had a lot more practice.

        Besides … it’s part of the story today.

  14. Okay, let me first say that I really like Corona and the potential he has. The goal was tremendous and he had some other dangerous passes. However, I don’t think he had a “standout” performance otherwise. His play severely dropped off in the 2nd half. He had far too many poor giveaways and was somewhat lazy getting back in defense. I like his progress but let’s not get too excited.

    • I don’t get it either.

      If this constitutes as a “standout performance”, our bar is fairly low and that’s no disrespect intended for the writer or Corona.

      • ever played in 90 degree weather with humidity? You’re not going to give your optimal performance.

        I thought Corona was brilliant.

      • Growing up in Missouri, we have humidity comparable to Florida in the summer. I’ve played plenty of sports in the summer during this humidity but that wasn’t the point.

        The statement is, “CONTINUES STANDOUT GOLD CUP” and my response applies to the entire Cup.

        I just don’t see it and I certainly didn’t see anything “brilliant”, unless we’ve lowered the bar on that term, too.

      • Well, “continues standout gold cup” description is warranted. Corona scored game winners against Cuba and El Salvador and significantly contributed to the game winning goal against Costa Rica (playing a through ball to Donovan for the break away while being under considerable pressure). He was part of the midfied on a team that had 75, 76, 63 and 70 percent possession in the four games that we played. His teammates are raving about his performances. Take another look at the quotes from Diskerud and Beasley.

      • Yeah, hard not to be impressed with Joe Benny in this tournament. Some of these comments are mystifying.

      • I agree with you, Old School. While Corona has had a few great moments in this Gold Cup, I don’t think his play has been more outstanding than guys like Donovan, Diskerud, Beckerman, Orozco and Goodson. The potential is there, but I have been much more impressed with Diskerud so far as he looks like a more polished player.

    • You never know, but if they both continue on the status quo type of performances I would still say no. You’ve got to think that Zusi, with his passing ability, would be slicing apart gold cup level opponents also.

      • And Jozy plays where? And Dempsey plays where?

        The only viable spot for Donovan is RM or LM, but i would hate to see Fabian get moved back because his attacking prowess has been stellar to this point when positioned at LM.

      • Beasley seems capable at RB against the Concocaf teams, but I still have doubts against the top teams. I would go with FJ at LB and Clint And Landon switching back and forth on the wings

      • Klinsmann found his formation with the A team. Conventional wisdom says he slots Donovan in on the right and see if that works. If they have any success with it, it stays.

      • JK is not about conventional wisdom.

        Everyone should know that by now.

        There is a lot of time between now and next June and Zusi and Corona might both miss the cut for Brazil.

        That is why JK is so focused on developing depth and more depth.

        He’s building a machine with interchangeable parts. None of these guys are irreplaceable.

      • Yeah but the players dictate the formation, not the reverse. With Jones and Bradley in the middle, we will go back to that 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 to allow both of them to flow into the attack behind the shield of attackers, and that will mean Donovan either slots out left or right behind the striker. I think he supplants Zusi, but there’s a chance he goes in on the left and Fabian pushes back into the defense to replace Beasley.

      • Perhaps. JK seems to like Donovan as second striker/attacking mid. Right wing may be up for grabs. zusi/corona/?

      • But you can’t put Dempsey out wide, because he’s not that type of player. He’s a hybrid poacher with honestly the most creative ability on the ball in the pool (evidence: scorpion kicks, wondergoals at fulham to name a few instances).

        With Donovan on the wings, we actually can maintain some width and still provide Jozy/Dempsey with great service. Unless we dramatically shake up the formation, there isn’t really a way to have Jozy, Donovan, and Dempsey playing up front.

    • Really? He started many games and got starts in the Copa Libertadores which was the number one priority and focus of the club and manager last year. I think he’s been getting better and better.

      • Yes but he only had two assists and one goal in Liga MX’s Clausura campaign a few months ago. He was rarely a 90 minute player. He is growing and is still young, and looks to have a bright future. I have been a tad skeptical of him, but he has played quite well in this Gold Cup.

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