Joe Corona: The New Face of U.S. Soccer

PHOTO: Joe Corona celebrates after scoring a goal against El Salvador in the first half of a CONCACAF quarterfinal match in Baltimore on July 21, 2013.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Every two years, the CONCACAF Gold Cup takes place to determine the champion of the North American, Central American, and Caribbean region. There are four teams remaining this year, including two-time consecutive champ, Mexico.

Five out of the last 10 championship matches have been U.S. vs Mexico. Throughout the last four years, the U.S. has fallen short against Mexico in the Gold Cup. In 2011, Mexico dominated the U.S. in a 4-2 victory.

Both countries are once again making their way through the tournament, with the U.S. clinching a spot in the semifinals after a win against El Salvador this past Sunday in Baltimore.

This is a different U.S. team, with younger faces, a new captain, DaMarcus Beasley, and a new coach, Juergen Klinsmann. And one of the most prominent faces of American success is Joe Benny Corona, born in California, and who is half-Mexican and half-Salvadoran.

With two goals during the Gold Cup run, Corona is becoming a prominent midfielder for the U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT). Making his first start for the USMNT senior team at 23 years old, Corona helped defeat El Salvador, his mother's home country, by scoring a goal in the 29th minute.

Corona is representing the U.S. in his international debut, but is a soccer player for the Xolos, a professional Mexican soccer club in Tijuana. He considers himself both Mexican and American, first playing the game on a dirt field when he was six years old in a town called La Gloria, just outside of Tijuana. He moved to San Diego when he was 11, and has lived there since.

Corona embodies a new shift in U.S. men's soccer, who now has six players who currently play for professional Mexican soccer teams on their roster, the most ever.

Addressing this shift in an interview with ESPN, coach Klinsmann said, "The senior national team will look like what America looks like. It's a melting pot. And I think this is wonderful."

The U.S. team is now preparing for their next match on Wednesday, July 24th against Honduras. With the Gold Cup tournament unraveling, there is a possibility in the horizon of another U.S.-Mexico Gold Cup re-match. And Corona will be playing, wearing red, white, and blue.

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