Quiet Corrales leads Quakes by example

San Jose looks to veteran leader to bust out of first-game funk

Busting up furniture in the locker room isn't exactly Ramiro Corrales’ style.

So when the San Jose Earthquakes captain dealt with his teammates in the wake of a season-opening 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, he didn’t call them together to deliver a blistering speech excoriating their performance.

“I mean, we talked about it a little bit with the guys, but hopefully it’s just one game,” Corrales said. “We can’t dwell on that game. We’ve just got to forget about it.”

Corrales has forgotten more soccer than many of his teammates have ever known. The 33-year-old came straight out of North Salinas High School -- a little more than an hour away from San Jose -- to join the inaugural Clash roster in 1996. Although there have been detours through Miami, New York and even three years spent in Norway, Corrales came back in 2008 for a third stint with a San Jose MLS franchise.

As a rookie, Corrales was the youngest player in the MLS and also the youngest on the U.S. national team, for which he has earned five caps. This season, Corrales is the old hand imparting wisdom to the younger set.

“I’m not a very vocal guy,” Corrales said. “I’ve never tried to be like that. I just try to perform well. I do from time to time talk to the young guys, just try to help them out a little bit, give them some confidence.”

Goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who’s in his fifth season playing alongside Corrales, thinks the young players would do well to listen up.

“It’s up to our younger guys to learn from a guy like Ramiro, because he’s been not only with this club longer than anyone, but he’s also been overseas, he’s been with the national team,” Cannon said. “He’s a consistent pro. I like him. I think he’s a good guy to lead us into battle.”

Yallop picked Corrales to take over the captaincy from Nick Garcia in part because of familiarity -- Corrales is one of one three current Quakes who also played during Yallop’s first term in San Jose, from 2001 to 2003 -- and because of his ability to communicate in all corners of the locker room.

“He doesn’t yell and scream, but he’ll make sure that if he needs to talk to them, get a point across, he’ll do it,” Yallop said. “I obviously go to him a lot of times to ask how the boys are feeling. We have a few Spanish-speaking players as well, and the language barrier is not easy to break when you’re playing. My Spanish and Portuguese is nothing, and their English is limited. [Corrales] speaks both, so he speaks for everybody.”

After playing both in the midfield and on the back line last season, Corrales is firmly ensconced at left back, which Yallop considers to be Corrales’ natural position.

“Coach told me, ‘You’re going to play left back the whole year,’ so now I’m just focusing on playing left back and getting better each day,” Corrales said. “I feel really comfortable there.”

Corrales had the highlight of the match for San Jose’s maligned defense against RSL, coming up with a clearance off the line late in the second half to keep the final score from being 4-0. It didn’t do anything to change the outcome, but served once again as a reminder of Corrales’ work ethic -- and as a do-as-I-do example from the quiet captain.

“I love, hard-working, blue-collar people and I think Ramiro fits under that realm,” Cannon said. “Those are the kind of guys we need in San Jose and those are the kind of guys our fans appreciate, and that’s why Ramiro’s here.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @sjquakes.