Direct from San Diego
Tijuana Trio Looks to Impress Jurgen Klinsmann
Jon Arnold talks to hometown heroes Joe Corona, Edgar Castillo, and Herculez Gomez as they hope to make an impression on the United States national team boss.
BY Jon Arnold PostedSAN DIEGO—Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden, and Oguchi Onyewu are all making intriguing returns to the United States national team, but it’s a different trio that’s commanding all the attention. Club Tijuana players Joe Corona, Edgar Castillo, and new signing Herculez Gomez are bona fide stars here, where smoke from July 4 fireworks obscured what is often a clear view to the Mexican border city Thursday night. Corona, in particular, is a San Diego native and has seen cheering fans and flashbulbs at every public appearance. The trio’s call-up for the Gold Cup wasn’t just to bring in hometown heroes. Gomez would be headed to the World Cup in Brazil if Jurgen Klinsmann had to name a side today, but Corona and Castillo are on the fringes. Both are looking to make an impact and show Klinsmann that leaving them behind for future matches would be a mistake. “I think this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. (Klinsmann) has stressed to me that I have to be very patient and my time will come,” Corona said. “I think this Gold Cup is that time. I’m just planning to keep coming and playing every game, every minute he gives me with a lot of hunger and try to do my best so that he can save me a spot in qualifying and hopefully the World Cup next year.” The midfielder has seen mostly late-match cameos for the Stars and Stripes but said being in camps has given him boldness he lacked when he was first called up. “I think I am a different player” than when first called, he said. “I play with more confidence. It’s a way different style of play when you come into the national team. I remember coming in, it was a little difficult for me to adjust to the speed, to the physicalness of the name. Now I come in with more confidence, and I’m more prepared.” Club teammate Edgar Castillo has seen more time with the national team than Corona, in part because he plays at a pretty weak spot. But while El Homie plays left back for Tijuana, he pushes up the field often in the system used by Xolos’ recently departed coach Antonio Mohamed. “I think so because he’s playing me up in front of DaMarcus, so I think it’s better there than in the back because I’m not a very good defender. We’ll see what he does,” Castillo said of potential playing time in the Gold Cup. Both players worked their way into the team after an improbable run that saw Tijuana win the Apertura, qualify for Copa Libertadores, the South American version of the Champions League, and advance to the quarterfinals. Corona and Castillo both played significant parts in the season. Now they’re excited to welcome a third member to the first-team and will continue serving as role models for the slew of young Mexican-Americans in the Tijuana system. Getting playing time and having a successful Gold Cup could be the next step in their careers, with Brazil approaching quickly on the horizon. If they have their way, the Tijuana trio will be just as ubiquitous as any other stars on the U.S. team—and not just in Baja California. Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.
July 05, 2013
July 05, 2013