SAN JOSE, Calif. — Ramiro Corrales, the last active player from MLS’ inaugural 1996 season, has been taking a lot of ribbing from his San Jose Earthquakes teammates about being fitted for a white sweatshirt — worn by the coaching staff — as part of his new dual role with the club.
Just as long as he’s not wearing them on game days, Corrales doesn’t mind. The 35-year-old is the bridge on this roster from the new Quakes to San Jose’s original franchise, which decamped for Houston in 2005, as well as another potential option for Frank Yallop to use at several positions.
Corrales has been practicing with the team since training camp opened last week. The Quakes are expected to soon announce a new deal with Corrales, who passed through the Re-Entry Draft untouched and is currently out of contract.
“I’m really happy and looking forward to [it],” Quakes general manager John Doyle said of Corrales’ return. “I think he’s been kind of ageless for us.”
While Doyle said the expectation is for Corrales to augment his on-field duties by working with the club’s academy program, the captain is focusing on keeping his armband and looking forward to a return to CONCACAF play for the first time in nearly a decade.
“I’m going to train with the team and I’ll be part of the team,” Corrales said. “We’ll see what happens in the future, but I’m here as a player right now.”
Said Doyle: “First and foremost will be playing. Secondly will be the coaching side of things.”
Corrales’ playing time was squeezed last year by the emergence of Justin Morrow at left back and Simon Dawkins at left midfield. He started 19 regular-season matches and appeared in three others, but Corrales’ 1,667 minutes were his fewest since 2001, when he rejoined San Jose midway through the campaign. A back problem that slowed him in previous seasons flared up briefly, but Corrales said he’s having no problems at this point.
Center back Jason Hernandez, the only current Quake other than Corrales to have lived through the club’s 2008 expansion season, said he didn’t give much thought to the notion of Corrales not returning for his 18th professional season.
“I think Ramiro is synonymous with the San Jose Earthquakes,” Hernandez said. “He’s more of a staple with this organization than I can think of, of any other guy in MLS. To be honest, I think for whatever reason, he gets overlooked as being one of the main figures of Major League Soccer since its inception and he’s been consistently a very, very strong player in this league.
Taking the Lead: Ramiro Corrales
“Maybe because we’re in San Jose and we don’t have the kind of hoopla around some of the other teams in the league, but he’s been great for as long as he’s been playing, and I’m glad he’s here, and hope he’s here as long as he wants to be.”
Whether the Quakes can reach the MLS Cup playoffs and go farther than last year — when they crashed out in the quarterfinals despite winning their second Supporters’ Shield in franchise history — might make the difference in how long Corrales keeps playing.
“Obviously, the success that we had last year, it was very positive, but I felt that we still needed that final step,” Corrales said. “Hopefully, we can win it this year and then I can retire. That would be great, right?”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.