Joe Corona Is a Must-Start in World Cup Qualifier USMNT vs. Mexico

Andy KontyCorrespondent IIMarch 25, 2013

Estadio Azteca
Estadio AztecaMiguel Tovar/Getty Images

USMNT midfielder Jermain Jones went home to Germany with a nick to his left ankle and will not play in the next USMNT qualifier in Mexico City. Jones is a consistent starter for the USMNT and his absence raises concerns about who will start in the midfield next to Michael Bradley.

The obvious choice is Maurice Edu, a versatile midfielder who first made a name for himself as a destroyer-type. In the last few years he's worked hard to develop his all-around game and coach Klinsmann feels comfortable playing him anywhere.

Which is why Edu will start at center back. Klinsmann tried him there last August in Estadio Azteca and he responded with a keystone defensive performance. And the U.S. won that game or something.

Clarence Goodson had a great game in the Scandinavian conditions against Costa Rica, but now its time for Klinsmann to pay attention to geography again and return Goodson to the bench.  Goodson's size is invaluable against the Norsemen of his league, but his lack of foot speed is a liability against the Mexicans.

Sasha Kljestan and Kyle Beckerman are also midfield options available to Klinsmann.  Beckerman plays at altitude (4226 ft.), but he has been inconsistent against lesser CONCACAF competition. Even though he was part of the U.S. win in August, its hard to imagine him pulling off the kind of performance the U.S. needs against their Hex rivals in a qualification match.

Kljestan is playing the best ball of his career. He is a significant cog one of Europe's better sides. His holding ability could prove useful, but his training occurs almost exclusively at sea level (341 ft.).  No doubt he will be useful killing off a game if the U.S. has the lead or generating some late offense if they are behind, but it is hard to imagine him going a full 90 minutes sucking Mexico City smog at 7,200 feet above sea level.

Klinsman's fourth option is 22-year-old Joe Corona who earns his paycheck in Mexico's Liga-MX for Club Tijuana.

Even though Corona's home stadium is near sea level, he pays regular visits to the Mexican highlands. Liga-Mx has three teams playing in Mexico City, six teams playing at elevations higher than Denver and two teams who play home games higher than Estadio Azteca: Pachuca (7,979 ft.) and Toluca (8750 ft.).

If any player on the current U.S. roster can handle the stadium conditions in Mexico City it is Joe Corona.

Corona is getting plenty of high-caliber minutes as Tijuana currently sit atop Group 5 in the Copa Libertatores. Corona scored once in the four matches. More importantly, he was Tijuana's playmaker in these fixtures including 90 minutes in a 1-0 victory against former champions Corinthians.  

Corona is playing high-level, high-speed, high-pressure and high-altitude soccer. He knows many of the players on the Mexican team and is intimate with their style of play.

Corona is a must-start for the U.S. in Mexico on Tuesday.

The same case can be made for DeMarcus Beasley who returned to the Nats with a high motor performance on Friday. He too is acclimated to the conditions at Estadio Azteca and is familiar with the Mexican national team as he too plies his trade in Liga-MX for Puebla (elev. 7005 ft.). He also put in 45 minutes in the USMNT's first-ever win at Estadio Azteca last August.

Klinsmann didn't pay attention to geography and acclimation against Honduras and it cost the U.S. two points when they gave up a late game winning goal.  He seemed to pay attention last Friday in Denver as the U.S. took its home field advantage.

We'll find out on Tuesday if Klinsmann has learned this lesson.