SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With 2,023 minutes already logged and seven matches remaining, San Jose Earthquakes captain Ramiro Corrales is on pace to play more minutes this year than he has in any MLS season since 1999.
Did the 34-year-old, who had to take cortisone shots in preseason to relieve his persistent back pain, find the fountain of youth?
No, he just got a really good book recommendation from Quakes assistant coach Mark Watson: “Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain and Move with Confidence,” written by Summerland, Calif., back specialist Dr. Eric Goodman, who has worked with a number of athletes, including those on the US Olympic water polo team.
“It’s been helping me a lot,” Corrales told MLSsoccer.com. “[The back pain] was kind of coming back, but then I started doing these exercises, and I’ve been feeling good lately.”
Good enough to score his first goal of the season last Saturday, topping off a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire — and good enough to continually shine in San Jose coach Frank Yallop’s weekly assessments.
“I think that was always his problem, his back,” Yallop said. “That was holding him back a little bit and he was hindered by it, but he’s got a certain regime he does now and he says he feels fantastic. I think he’s one of our better footballers, if not pretty much been great all season, to be honest. He’s not really put a foot wrong. I think that age doesn’t matter right now with him.”
Corrales broke in with San Jose’s original MLS franchise in 1996, a 19-year-old from nearby Salinas, Calif., who worked primarily on the left wing or as a defensive midfielder. Since returning with the new Earthquakes in 2008, Corrales has usually played at left back, although this year Yallop has been using him to plug holes all over the field, including center back and central midfield — a move that raised eyebrows initially among Quakes observers.
“I’d seen him play there when I had the team in ‘01 through ’03,” Yallop said. “He played a lot of minutes in the middle of the field, so it’s always in him to play there. I knew the level of fitness he’s at, playing left back, that he would handle it no problem. It’s a different game there, but just the way he trains and goes about things, he’s fit.”
With 12 MLS seasons and three years in Norway under his belt, Corrales may not be quite as fast as he once was, but he is more judicious in his decision-making.
“Now, I’m more calm, more experienced and I think that’s helped me playing left back,” Corrales said. “I’m more patient trying to win the ball. When I was a little bit younger, I was trying to win the ball every time, and sometimes you get beat like that.”
After struggling with injuries last year, Corrales is looking forward not just to rest of this season but 2012 as well.
“Oh, we’ll have him back, for sure,” Yallop said. “That’s for sure, that one. He’s done fantastically well, and I don’t see it changing. ... We’d love to have him back.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.