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Corral shines for Mexico at CONCACAF qualifying

Charlyn Corral was Mexico's star at World Cup qualifying, scoring twice in the third-place match to clinch a berth to Canada 2015. (USA Today Images)

Charlyn Corral was Mexico’s star at World Cup qualifying, scoring twice in the third-place match to clinch a berth to Canada 2015. (USA Today Images)

Mexico’s women’s national team found itself in a position in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship that few would have predicted prior to the tournament.

On three separate occasions, the team needed a result to reach the ultimate objective – securing an automatic bid to next year’s World Cup. Against Jamaica, the team needed at least a draw to emerge from the group. Then there was the win-and-in semifinal against the United States (which Mexico lost, 3-0). And on Sunday, a win over Trinidad and Tobago saw Mexico secure the final automatic CONCACAF bid. Both against Jamaica and T&T, forward Charlyn Corral came up big for her side, scoring two goals in each affair.

“She’s phenomenal,” Mexican defender Ari Romero said of Corral after the win over Trinidad and Tobago. “She goes 110 percent and as a teammate, we feed off of that. When we see someone like her go at a player who is 10 feet taller than her there’s no limit. We thrive off her energy and her soccer skills. There are people like me that want to be just like her you know, attacking, taking people on 1v1 and coming in scoring those goals that we need.”

In truth, Corral’s all-tournament team performance during qualifiers should have been far from surprising. After all, she was given the nickname “Prodigy Girl.” She represented Mexico in three youth World Cups and was a member of Mexico’s 2011 World Cup team. The forward, whose calm finishing and hold up play drew attention during the tournament, also holds the record for youngest player to score at a World Cup event. She accomplished that feat in 2006 at 14 years old.

For two years, she played collegiately in the United States for the Louisville Cardinals in 2012 and 2013. Corral put up impressive numbers in that period averaging 10.5 goals and 8 assists per year. She also accrued an impressive list of accolades, including Big East Midfielder of the Year and 1st team All Big East her junior year. She won American Athletic Conference midfielder of the year in 2013 and was also the only unanimous selection to the All-AAC 1st team.

After her senior season, Corral entered the 2014 NWSL draft but wasn’t selected. Although, the decision by NWSL teams to pass up on the technically gifted player was probably based largely on the league’s international restrictions, two rookies that required international spots were taken. If teams were willing to take a shot at a rookie who’d take up an international spot, surely Corral’s resume was worthy of such a risk.

America’s loss was Finland’s gain as Corral signed with Merilappi United in the top division last June. She called her experience in Finland “awesome” and says she’d like to play for another professional team in Europe. In the immediate, Corral’s No. 1 priority is her national team as next year’s World Cup draws near.

After her performance in qualifiers, women’s soccer fans will certainly watch out for the forward next summer. It seems likely her name’s been added to an NWSL team’s discovery list. How any team is just making this “discovery” remains a mystery.

Perhaps teammate Bianca Sierra summed it up best:

“She’s always been the type of player that she is and if people (over)look her then they do, but don’t think they will anymore after they’ve seen what she’s done in this tournament.”

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