Sounders FC joined Major League Soccer 13 seasons after San Jose Earthquakes captain Ramiro Corrales did.
Corrales’ first season in MLS coincided with the first season there was an MLS. And as he prepares for the Sounders’ visit on Saturday, he reigns as the last remaining player who participated in the league’s inaugural 1996 season.
“Obviously, his longevity has been a reflection of the type of player he is,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s a pretty sound technical player with good size. … I think it’s a great story for the league.”
Corrales, 36, joined what was then known as the San Jose Clash in 1996. Over his long career he has worn the MLS crests of a couple of other teams that he outlasted: the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and the Miami Fusion. He left the league to play in Norway from 2005-07 before returning to MLS and the Earthquakes in 2008.
The defender/midfielder is expected to make his club-record 242nd appearance for San Jose on Saturday.
Naturally, he has seen a lot of changes in the league.
“The first one is we get a lot more fans now,” he said Thursday in a phone interview. “I think the people are more involved with soccer. The talent is impressive. What it was in ’96, when I started, and now to see a lot of players going to Europe. I think it’s fantastic.
“One of the other changes: A lot of teams now have their own stadiums. And that’s great. That means that the league is doing well, the league is growing. And that’s good to see.”
Next season, the Earthquakes are expected to become the latest MLS club to move into their own soccer-specific stadium. And Corrales said he hopes to be around to play in the new stadium. He is beginning to take on some coaching responsibilities with the Earthquakes’ academy players, but he has no plans to retire.
For now, the Quakes remain at Buck Shaw Stadium on the Santa Clara University campus, where the Sounders (0-1-1) will seek their first win this season.
Both teams will be without key players because of a run of injuries and because three Sounders (Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Mario Martinez) and two Quakes (Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez) are away with their national teams.
Corrales said San Jose has the depth to handle the challenge and build on its 1-1-1 start.
“You want to be at full strength every game, but (there are always) people with injuries, people with the national team,” he said. “It’s part of the game. … Some young guys will get the chance to prove that they belong here. It should be exciting for them, and they should be looking forward to that. The team will be fine.”
The Sounders’ home match against Chivas USA, originally scheduled for April 7 has been moved to Sept. 4, the club announced Thursday. The match was delayed to give the Sounders a break in their MLS schedule to accommodate their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series against Santos Laguna: April 2 at home and April 9 in Torreon, Mexico. With the change, that series will now be played uninterrupted between MLS matches March 30 at Real Salt Lake and April 13 when New England visits. … The Sounders will train in Tukwila this morning before flying to the Bay Area for what will be their first road game of the season.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer