Fri, Jul 05 2013 02:59 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Futbol. Fussball. Soccer. Any way you pronounce it, it remains the world’s game. And the world’s game is coming to San Diego this weekend.
Take your pick:
On Friday, July 5, the United State men’s national team will host Guatemala in a friendly match at Qualcomm Stadium. The 8 p.m. game serves as a final tune-up for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup scheduled July 7-28 at 13 venues across the United States.
It will be televised on the NBC Sports Network and on UniMas.
On Saturday, July 6, the San Diego Clasico will match the Club Tijuana Xolos against Club America at Petco Park. The game is set for a 7:30 kick-off.
Founded in 1916, Club America is one of the oldest and most successful clubs in Mexican soccer history. The team has won 10 domestic national titles and added eight FIFA-recognized club trophies.
Two previous international matches at Petco Park have each attracted more than 20,000 fans.
Also on Saturday, at the same time, the San Diego SeaLions of the Women’s Premier Soccer League will host the Storm Elk Grove at Mater Dei Catholic High School.
The WPSL match, the first of two games the SeaLions will play this month at MDCHS, pits a pair of unbeaten teams. The SeaLions, who are coached by Bonita Vista High School grad (and former U.S. national women’s team player) Jen Lalor-Nielsen, are 5-0-1 while the Storm is 7-0-1.
The latter conflict of scheduling is unfortunate but does give fans a choice to watch premier level men’s or women’s action — and that has to be better than no choice at all.
On the American roster are two players with South County connections: midfielder Joe Corona and forward Herculez Gomez.
Mexico has another player with South Bay ties on its roster: midfielder Miguel Angel Ponce.
Corona, 22, whose family resides in Chula Vista, earned CIF Player of the Year honors in 2008 while leading the Sweetwater Red Devils to the San Diego Section Division II championship. He played one season for SDSU before signing a professional contract with Club Tijuana in 2009.
Corona, whose father is Mexican and mother is Salvadoran, received a call-up to play for Mexico in the 2011 Pan American Games. With three options (Mexico, Salvador and the United States) in his hip pocket as far as international eligibility went, Corona accepted a call-up to the U.S. Under-23 team in November 2011.
He earned selection to the American squad battling for an Olympic berth for the 2012 London Games, and netted a hat trick in a 6-0 victory against Cuba. In an ensuing game against El Salvador, he scored to give the U.S. team a 3-2 lead and an apparent ticket to England.
But a late goal by El Salvador — in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time — deadlocked the teams into a 3-3 tie and knocked out the Americans from qualifying.
“A painful moment,” U.S. coach Caleb Porter referenced after the game, adding the word “devastating” to describe the effect on his players.
While the result last March dropped the Americans to third place in the final Olympic qualifying, it opened the door to further opportunities for Corona.
The SuHi grad moved up to duty on the full U.S. men’s team in May 2012, and has been a part of the American effort to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Corona has scored 10 goals in 82 games for Club Tijuana.
Gomez, 31, recently joined Corona as a teammate with Club Tijuana.
He got his professional start with Cruz Azul’s second division squad in 2001 and moved up to the first division with Durango the following season.
But the Oxnard-born Gomez found playing time limited in Mexico and returned to the United States, landing a spot on the roster of the San Diego Gauchos of the United Soccer Leagues D-3 Professional League in 2002.
He made an immediate impact as a member of the Gauchos by scoring 17 goals in 17 games. He caught the eye of the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer in a friendly match and earned a call-up to the Galaxy later that season.
The charismatic Gomez played for the Galaxy through 2006, scoring 16 goals in 53 matches, before joining the MLS Colorado Rapids for 2007-08. He scored six goals in 37 games for the Rapids before going on to play 34 games for the Kansas City Wizards in 2008-09.
In 2004, the Galaxy loaned Gomez to the San Diego Sockers indoor team, for which he played in 10 games, scoring five goals.
Gomez helped the Galaxy to a rare Cup “double” in 2005. He scored the winning goal in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and later that season the Galaxy won the MLS Cup. Gomez was named the team’s most valuable player that season.
Since 2010, Gomez has played in Mexico and recently joined the Club Tijuana roster. He became the first American-born player to lead a foreign league in goals when he scored 10 times for Puebla in 2010.
Gomez scored another prestigious “double” when he led Santos Laguna to the 2012 Clausura victory to become the first player to win both an MLS championship and a Primera Division championship.
He has played for the U.S. national team since 2007, when he joined Sam’s Army for the Copa America. He appeared in three of Team USA’s four matches at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and has scored five goals in 21 matches overall with the U.S. national team.
The United States and Mexico are favored to meet in the Gold Cup final in Chicago. If they do, Corona, Gomez and Ponce — all U.S. born — will be facing one another.
Ponce, 24, was born in Sacramento but attended middle school and one year of high school while his family lived in the San Ysidro area.
He attracted considerable attention as a youth and quickly found his way to famed Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico. He made 24 appearances for the U-23 Mexican team in 2011-12 and was a member of Mexico’s gold medalist team at the 2012 London Games.
Can the Gold Cup possibly measure up?
The WPSL team held an intra-squad game last Saturday at Cathedral Catholic High School, with the SeaLions roster being evenly divided into Team Abby and Team Mia in honor of iconic U.S. national team players Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.
Wambach recently passed Hamm’s record of 158 international goals to become the world’s greatest female scorer with 160 goals and counting.
Somehow appropriately, Team Abby defeated Team Mia 2-1.
The match benefitted the Chisomo Idea, an international humanitarian organization that uses soccer to make a difference in the lives of children in the country of Malawi.
The SeaLions’ line-up for the charity match featured eight rostered players and a half-dozen players from its reserve squad.
Lalor-Nielsen said she was pleased with the effort shown by her players.
“Both teams played a hard, competitive game,” Lalor-Nielsen said in a team release. “It was nice to watch the players compete against each other and score some quality goals. These players all possess an innate drive to succeed, which is always present regardless of the situation. It’s that drive that makes the team and organization so unique and successful.”
Besides Lalor-Nielsen, BVHS/USD grad Elie Magracia will also be making a homecoming as a member of the SeaLions. For information, visit www.sealionsoccer.com.
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