“Don’t ask me about the 300,” Corrales said, referring to the fact that his appearance Saturday against Houston tripped the odometer on his MLS career. “I don’t care about that. [It’s] just another game for me.”
The fact that it was just another match is exactly what’s so surprising.
This was supposed to be the year when Corrales began transitioning from full-time captain of the San Jose Earthquakes to part-time coach. Instead, Corrales – the last active MLS player who took part in the league’s inaugural 1996 campaign – has been on the pitch for all but 18 out of San Jose’s 450 minutes this season, and he reached the elusive 300-match plateau in a career that includes brief stops in Miami and New York.
“He’s playing great,” said 36-year-old San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch, who beats out Corrales by seven months to hold the title of oldest current Quake. “I think age is just a number. When you take care of your body the way Rams has, you can play for a long time. That was his 300th game, and he’s still playing great. I think he’s been tremendous this season so far.”
Corrales’ playing time seemed set to shrink with the emergence of Justin Morrow at Corrales’ previous home of left back. However, holes along the flanks thanks to Marvin Chávez's injury and Simon Dawkins’ departure needed filling, so coach Frank Yallop turned to his old reliable to plug in along the left wing.
Corrales became just the 21st member of the MLS “300 Club,” following close on the heels of Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman (now at 303) and D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario (302). All three are well back of all-time leader Kevin Hartman, who has made 416 appearances. The all-time leader among field players is former Tampa Bay Mutiny and New England Revolution star Steve Ralston, with 378 appearances.
“He’s done really well, played well, had a great start to the season,” Yallop said of Corrales. “He’s fit, he’s healthy and again, age doesn’t really matter when you can play like he plays. I think he’s had a really good, solid start to the year.”
Corrales has two of the Quakes’ three assists so far this season, sparking the build-up to Adam Jahn’s sliding goal against New York on March 10 and springing Morrow for the US international’s sparkling goal against Columbus six days later.
So far, Corrales hasn’t seen any indication of the back problems that have troubled him in past seasons. Partly, that’s because the Salinas native moved up to San Jose to cut his commute from a two-hour round trip to a fraction of that time.
“That’s actually helped me a lot,” Corrales told MLSsoccer.com of not spending those hours in the car. “I get massages twice a week, cold tub basically every day. So I’m taking care of my legs.”
This kind of pace is likely unsustainable for Corrales, who hasn’t played in 30 regular-season matches since 1999, when he was a member of the MetroStars. As Yallop pointed out, the Quakes are suiting up once a week right now, something that will change as the club gets deeper into the season and mixes in matches for the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League – and those midweek games are killers for players of a certain age.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to go 30 matches, but so far my body feels OK,” Corrales said. “No injuries, nothing, but still it’s a long, long season, 34 [regular-season] matches, and then we’ve got other tournaments. I’ll get some rest here and there, I guess.”