It's been a difficult year on and off the field for Jesus "Tecatito" Corona.
After missing the 2017 Confederations Cup because of a personal issue, Corona again pulled out of a Mexico team with another personal issue in October, keeping him away from the national team. Fans criticized him to the point where the reason - his wife suffering a miscarriage - was made public. Playing on after the immense sadness, Corona struggled to be the same player he was two years ago when he was a star for both Porto and the Mexico national team.
Mexico boss Juan Carlos Osorio has mentioned several times that while the press and fans now demand Hirving Lozano start every match for El Tri, when Osorio arrived as manager it was Corona who was the must-start player. In that, Monday's draw with Wales was a throwback, with Corona in the starting lineup and Lozano not coming into the match as he rests up after winning the Dutch title with PSV. Lozano is in great form, and you know what you're going to get with "Chucky," but with Corona there were concerns about the player's confidence.
Those concerns were erased Monday night. From the sixth minute on, Corona was active on the right side of the Mexico attack, taking on defenders and setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. That was when he sent two defenders flying past him and put his shot on target. Corona looked like the player of old. He wanted to ball, and he wanted to take on defenders.
He got what he wanted in the 35th minute, playing in Chicharito, who he started with again after such successful partnerships in 2015 and 2016. Five minutes after that, he tucked farther inside, keeping the ball at his feet as he shifted to the middle of the field before playing in Jesus Gallardo on the left-hand side. When that cross was cleared, one of the best chances of the first half came to the feet of Hector Herrera - set up on a move from Tecatito.
"I think we showed that we connect really well and that we know each other," Corona said of his partnership with Chicharito. "At the end, we lacked finishing, which is the most important."
His finest moment came just before the halftime whistle, with a stunning touch to kill a long, looping ball from the left and immediately putting it at his feet to do with it what he pleased. He got into the box but had his shot blocked and his cross faced the same fate after he ran the ball back down. Before the match was even over there was a video uploaded to YouTube named, "Jesus Corona Crazy Skills vs. Wales".
He came off the field in the 69th minute frustrated that he hadn't been able to find the back of the net or set up a winning goal, and ultimately no one from Mexico could break through in a dull draw. Even though Corona didn't find his reward with a goal, he was calm after the match and felt he had largely lived up to what the coaching staff had asked of him.
"I'm good. Somethings that's how things go. I think the manager told me that they were going to push me more and so they were on me but I'm going to keep working to get better physically," Corona said.
It was a night on which Mexico had 17 shots to Wales' two with eight bringing Wayne Hennessey into action (and none testing Jesus Corona - the winger's 'tocayo'), but that's how soccer goes.
"The offensive behaviors of the team showed today, we were really efficient in getting into the final third," Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio say after the match. "Now it's about converting those efficiently and converting our chances to score goals."
The result may not fill Mexico fans with confidence ahead of the World Cup, but if the only thing El Tri learned Monday is that it can expect the bes from Corona at the World Cup, it was an experience worth going through.