BY: COLIN REESE
The United States Men’s National Team needs Joe Benny Corona in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil because Corona gives Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore a creative, two-footed, and one-to-two touch attacking midfielder to play with to give them a critical mass of American players who are skilled on the ball.
As Corona plays either on the left or right wing in addition to playing centrally as a playmaker, Corona is a versatile attacker that can either be a substitute for Donovan or Dempsey or be a playmaker to start in between them or a player to start over Donovan or Dempsey if the circumstances call for it.
While Jürgen Klinsmann has rightly been using Mix Diskerud more and more, the USMNT also needs Corona on the roster because Diskerud can’t fill in for Donovan and Dempsey like Corona can on the wing. Additionally, selecting both Diskerud and Corona gives the United States four attacking midfielders with advanced technical ability that all play soccer the right way, which is to say with creativity, quality passing, and intelligent movement off the ball.
Although Jürgen Klinsmann has been using either Dempsey or Donovan as the main creative force on the team, Corona gives Klinsmann a player who can free Donovan and Dempsey up to make more runs closer to the goal in the final third.
The selection of Corona and Diskerud is a simple question of looking at the most skilled American attacking midfielders and doing some math. If Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Edu are selected as the three defensive midfielders, then this leaves some probably six roster spots open in the midfield for the United States. Selecting Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan leaves space for four more attacking midfielders, and if Klinsmann is going to select Fabian Johnson and Mix Diskerud, then this leaves two final spots open in the midfield (if nine midfielders are selected).
Corona and Feilhaber are the obvious choices for these final two spots over Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi because Corona is simply a more talented, a more dynamic, and a more versatile player that can either be deployed as a playmaker or as an attacking midfielder out wide; Feilhaber is just too proven and too talented to leave off the roster if Klinsmann values the inclusion of an experienced and proven playmaker on the roster.
Given Corona’s ability to use both feet to dribble, pass, and shoot, and given his ability to play the style of one-to-two touch soccer that Donovan and Dempsey want to play, Corona gives Bradley, Donovan, and Dempsey another midfielder for them to combine with so that they can maintain possession and create scoring chances consistently.
The excellent play of Joe Corona in the Copa Libertadores, in Liga MX, and in the Gold Cup have demonstrated that Corona is a quality international-caliber player that brings needed creativity and attacking skill and versatility to the American midfield.
Corona recently played the entire Tijuana match against Chivas, and his limited minutes before this game and after his inspired performance against Club América earlier in the Clausura were simply due to him recovering from an ankle injury.
Since the United States has Jones, Bradley, Dempsey, and Donovan, players like Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, and Benny Feilhaber all bring a creative and needed skill-set that the other four players simply don’t have.
Looking at the talent of the American player pool, a player like Joe Corona has to be considered an attacking midfielder that gives the United States the sort of creativity and attacking ability that is too good to be ignored.
While Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya have their qualities, which is crossing for Zusi and dribbling at pace for Bedoya, Corona is a more complete and a more dynamic attacking midfielder with a more diversified arsenal of skills and qualities to play effectively against high-level competition without being one-dimensional.
As stated above, the inclusion of Corona is a simple question of mathematics. The United States has two quality defensive midfielders in Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley along with free-roaming goal-scoring attacking midfielders like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but the United States doesn’t have enough players like Joe Corona and Benny Feilhaber who should both be included on the roster along with Mix Diskerud.
Unlike Feilhaber and Diskerud, Corona also excels playing on either wing, and this ability to play on either side where Donovan and Dempsey naturally play makes him an American attacking midfielder that needs to be included on the World Cup roster.
In short, the United States isn’t strong enough from a creative and technical standpoint to leave players like Joe Corona off the roster, and Corona is too good to be considered a fringe player or a long shot for the 2014 World Cup.
From an American perspective, hopefully Corona will continue to perform well and be influential for Club Tijuana, and the upcoming USA friendly against Mexico should be a great opportunity for Corona to show his value, assuming that Jürgen Klinsmann selects him.
The Front Six of the USMNT needs to be thought of as a puzzle where important pieces like Jones, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore are in place but that missing creative playmaker piece is missing, and the United States will need players like Corona, Diskerud, and Feilhaber on the roster to make sure that enough of those playmaker pieces are present on the roster and in the starting line-up.
If for no other reason, Corona needs to be on the USA World Cup roster because he is the only legitimate substitute for players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. If either of them are injured or suspended, then the USA will be in trouble without Corona available as a substitute.