SAN JOSE -- After 18 seasons, Earthquakes veteran Ramiro Corrales is calling it quits because of an achy back.

The last active player from Major League Soccer's inaugural season in 1996 announced Tuesday that he is retiring after the year.

Corrales, 36, wanted to continue but "my body is telling me otherwise." He decided to play the season without painkiller injections that has helped him get through recent years.

"It's a struggle every morning just to practice," said Corrales, the Quakes' all-time leader in games played (249), starts (227) and minutes (20,117).

The 2000 Olympian will consider undergoing back surgery after the season.

Ramiro Corrales #12 of the San Jose Earthquakes in action against Dan Gargan #8 of the Toronto FC during an MLS game at Buck Shaw Stadium on May 29, 2010
Ramiro Corrales #12 of the San Jose Earthquakes in action against Dan Gargan #8 of the Toronto FC during an MLS game at Buck Shaw Stadium on May 29, 2010 in Santa Clara, California. (Getty Images)

Corrales made the announcement without much fanfare, typical of a defender who never enjoyed the spotlight. He talked to three reporters after participating in the Quakes' 3-2 defeat to Chivas USA in a Reserve League game.

Corrales played 12 years in San Jose, joining the club in 1996 after the Columbus Crew picked him 81st overall in the initial draft, The Crew traded him to San Jose.

The Salinas native was a member of Earthquakes teams that won MLS Cups in 2001 and '03.

Corrales also played three years in Norway before joining the Quakes when they re-entered MLS in 2008 as an expansion team.

He hopes to remain with the club. General manager John Doyle views Corrales as a potential youth academy coach, but nothing has been decided. Doyle, Corrales' teammate in San Jose in the 1990s, could not praise the fullback enough.

"He has an elegance about his play," Doyle said. "He also has a bite. In our first five games this year he was our best player."

  • Doyle gave his strongest endorsement to date for interim coach Mark Watson, saying the former assistant has done a phenomenal job since replacing Frank Yallop in June.

    Watson is 10-5-1 in his first head-coaching job.

    "Mark has had a real emphasis on small details and doing things right," Doyle said.

    Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.

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