SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes’ fortunes may have changed dramatically from 2011 to 2012, but longtime team captain Ramiro Corrales is still in the same spot as last year.
That is to say, without a set spot in the lineup.
Corrales (above), the last MLS player with experience dating back to the league’s initial 1996 season, had been hoping to re-establish himself as an everyday player this year with a consistent role after bouncing between several positions last season.
The 35-year-old Northern California native began the year at left back, playing 10 of the Quakes’ first 12 matches there. But then the back issues that have bothered Corrales on and off for years flared up, center back Víctor Bernárdez returned to health and once San Jose came back from its three-and-a-half-week vacation in late June, Justin Morrow was firmly planted on an All-Star trajectory at left back.
San Jose used the same back four – Morrow, Bernárdez, Jason Hernandez and Steven Beitashour – for eight consecutive matches coming out of that international break, breaking the quartet up only when Beitashour had to serve a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation on July 28.
During that run, Corrales – who earned his first MLS All-Star spot last month as one of Commissioner Don Garber’s selections – has played sporadically on the left wing, making three starts in San Jose’s last 10 league matches. He started as a holding midfielder Sunday in the Quakes’ 3-0 Reserve League victory over Seattle.
Corrales admitted to MLSsoccer.com that it was difficult not to be a week-in, week-out choice of coach Frank Yallop, but knows the reason why that’s the case.
“It is a little bit tough, because I’m used to playing all the time,” Corrales said. “But give credit to the team, it’s playing really well. Justin’s great, our midfielders are playing great. I’m just there, ready to get in whenever I get the chance again, and I’m going to try to do a good job and help the team.”
That chance might come Saturday in Montreal (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live), when the Quakes will try to extend their lead at the top of the Supporters’ Shield table.
With Shea Salinas down due a strained hamstring and Mehdi Ballouchy unable to travel to Canada because of his unresolved US immigration status, the Quakes will be thin on the wings against the Impact. Simon Dawkins is available, but Marvin Chávez played 45 minutes for Honduras against a "B" side from Argentinean giant Boca Juniors in Miami on Wednesday – scoring in the 89th minute – and it’s not clear what impact that might have.
If Chávez is too fatigued to give more than 45 minutes, Yallop could open with Corrales or rookie Sam Garza opposite Dawkins.
“Hopefully, Frank thinks of me,” Corrales said. “Obviously, Simon’s playing in there, too. He’s doing a good job, and Marvin’s on the other side. If I get some playing time, it’d be great. I’ll be ready.”
The Quakes hope Beitashour and Chris Wondolowski will be ready as well after flying directly from Mexico City to join the club in Montreal. Both players – along with suspended forward Alan Gordon – went south for the US national team camp but did not see any action Wednesday in the Americans’ historic 1-0 victory against Mexico.
“There’s nothing worse than going to camp and not getting a minute,” Yallop said earlier this week, before Michael Orozco Fizcal’s 80th-minute goal pushed the US to their first win in Mexico in 75 years. “It’s a little frustrating, but we understand what Jurgen [Klinsmann, the US coach and Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez] are trying to do. They’re trying to prepare and get ready for their [2014 World Cup] qualifiers.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.