Joe Corona hopes Mexico comes back with a medal from the Olympics

The Club Tijuana midfielder has emerged as one of the Liga MX's newest stars, and as a tantalizing prospect for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States.

TIJUANA, Mexico -- Joe Corona is fully aware of what could have been.

The Club Tijuana midfielder was firmly on the radar of Mexico manager Luis Fernando Tena and his youth squad.

El Tri's interest in Corona was so strong that the Los Angeles native was called upon for a friendly back in September of 2011 while El Tri was preparing for the Pan American Games the following October. 

Celebrated in Guadalajara, the Pan Am Games were a mere dress rehearsal for the Olympic campaign, one that Corona envisioned he would be a part of, wearing a green shirt.

"I hoped that all the players would receive equal treatment. They called up me up for a reason, to watch me and gauge my chances to play the Pan American Games," Corona said in early March, long after he had traded El Tri green for Sam's Army red, white and blue.

Corona's treatment amounted to a 15-minute cameo as a left back, a position he was not used to playing.

At the CONCACAF Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Corona was fitted as an attacking midfielder by U.S. boss Caleb Porter, a position in which he sparkled, scoring four goals in three games, including a hat trick against Cuba in the opener.

Despite the individual heroics, the United States was thwarted in its bid to make the Olympic Games.

Now, Corona reflects on what could have been while plying his trade at the club level, with the long-gone possibility of playing in London 2012 squarely in his rear-view mirror.

"Yes, as you know I have a lot of great friends in the Mexican national team" the San Diego State product told after he was asked if he wanted Mexico to return with a medal from the Olympics.

With Mexico just one win away from the medal rounds, it's still easy to overlook how differently the story could have played out for Corona.

"I’m following all the teams in London. Right now, I have nothing else to do but to keep working and try to stand out where I am, which is at my club here in Tijuana," Corona said.

The payoff from standing out at Xolos, a team that made the playoffs last season and is now firmly entrenching itself in the Liga MX field after a tough inaugural season, is playing time under Jurgen Klinsmann with the United States’ senior team.

Along with Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza, Corona is one of three Americans who have floodlights squarely pointed at them by Klinsmann, assistant coach Martin Vasquez and the entire USA staff.

Klinsmann’s overt policy to give the United States a different feel by incorporating as many young Latino and European talent means Corona and his Tijuana pals will get a good long look, possibly as soon as Aug. 15, when the U.S. national team will travel to the hallowed grounds of the Estadio Azteca in its newest bid to beat Mexico on its home turf for the first time ever. And much like dwelling on what could have been, Corona is well aware that his name might be on that list in the very near future.

“Yes, that would be a great opportunity,” Corona said, with a slight smile on his face.

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