Ramiro Corrales gets hero's send-off in emotional finale for San Jose Earthquakes

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Ramiro Corrales went out a winner. It’s the same way the San Jose Earthquakes team captain came into the league 18 years ago.

Corrales, who announced his retirement two weeks ago, started for the first time since Sept. 14 on Saturday, his 250th and final game with the club dating back to the league’s first season in 1996.

The day belonged to the MLS veteran from the moment Buck Shaw Stadium opened its gates Saturday to far into the night at a private party with his teammates.

“He deserves everything,” San Jose’s Rafael Baca said. “He was the first to start the league and the last to leave. He’s done it all. He’s a great role model and it’s been great getting to know him.”

Corrales received a hero’s send-off when he was subbed out for Baca in the 60th minute. On the spur of the moment, Steven Lenhart and Victor Bernandez hoisted Corrales onto their shoulders and walked him triumphantly off the field for the last time.

“It was very emotional before the game with my family there and friends were there,” Corrales said. “It’s been fantastic for 18 years. I’ve felt comfortable here the last few years. This has been one of the best locker rooms I’ve experienced in my career.”

Walter Martinez and Chris Wondolowski each scored a goal, helping Corrales go out a winner in his final MLS game, and the Earthquakes topped FC Dallas, 2-1, in the season finale for both teams.

“I’m so proud to have stepped on the same field as Ramiro,” Wondolowski said.

Corrales said he’ll be speaking with Earthquakes general manager John Doyle during the off-season about a possible role with the team moving forward, but for now the team is savoring a fitting tribute to the last MLS original left on the field from 1996.

“It was important to honor him,” interim head coach Mark Watson said. “He’s been great. He’s the last of the originals and he needed to play a part. He can still play at a high level. He’s truly a legend.”

Corrales acknowledged the day was emotional from the start. He even had to take a few minutes after the game to compose himself after feeling dizzy.

“My teammates are unbelievable,” Corrales said. “They made me feel very special tonight. I’ll never forget this night.”