Corrales back for Quakes, but will he stay in lineup?

SJ captain returns from knee sprain, but playoff XI still in air

When San Jose line up against Chivas USA tonight, Earthquakes left back Ramiro Corrales is expected to regain his captain’s armband and make his first start since suffering a sprained knee on Aug. 7.

The question is, will he get to keep it?

Corrales is one of several players looking to make a final impression on coach Frank Yallop. The Quakes coach appears to be leaning toward using several reserves against Chivas and treating the season finale Saturday in Kansas City as a dress rehearsal for San Jose’s Oct. 30 playoff opener.

That means any player who’s not already in Yallop’s preferred XI has only one more chance to change his mind.

Foremost on that list is Corrales, who was one of only three Quakes to start each of San Jose’s first 17 matches this season and served as the team’s captain throughout that stretch. Corrales was knocked out in the latter stages of San Jose’s 1-0 loss at Colorado on Aug. 7, when he took the worst of a crashing challenge on the Rapids’ Kosuke Kimura.

The 33-year-old missed a full third of the season before clocking 29 minutes Saturday as a substitute in a 1-0 loss to Houston.

“It’ll be my first [start] in a couple of months, so yeah, I’m excited to play and try to help the team win at home,” Corrales told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s been a while. We need a win.”

Corrales knows that Yallop will be watching to see whether the veteran will be able to reassert himself.

“It is [important], to prove to the coach that, fitness-wise, I’m getting there,” Corrales said. “Even if it’s not 90 [minutes] but 70, I’ll be happy with that. I just want to play again. I still feel the game moves a little faster. I’m trying to get used to it again.”

Regardless of how well Corrales does, he’s fighting an uphill battle. In his absence, San Jose’s defense allowed just eight goals in the 10 matches Corrales missed, and Yallop has praised the work of his outside back pairing – Tim Ward and Chris Leitch – during that run.

“Tim’s done a good job and played,” Yallop said. “Chris has done a good job and played. Ramiro’s trying to get back in the side. We don’t throw away all you’ve done in the season to accommodate a player, but I’d love to have the option of playing Ramiro, for sure. Ramiro, when he’s on song, is a good player.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes