September 8, 2000
By John Philip Wyllie
Despite the fact that more Hispanic males are playing soccer in the United States than ever before, just one Mexican-American player will represent the U.S.A. on its men's soccer team when the Olympic Games begin next week in Sidney. Defender, Ramiro Corrales of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars will proudly take his place on a team that will attempt to become the first American men's team ever to advance beyond the first round of the tournament. Following a scrimmage against the A-League's San Diego Flash at Chula Vista's Arco Olympic Training Center on Tuesday, Corrales discussed the lack of Hispanic representation.
"I don't really know what is going on. There are a lot of good (Hispanic) players out there, but they have to begin working (on their skills) when they are very young. Many of them are from low income families, so maybe they don't have the advantages of the American (born) players."
Corrales was born in Mexico and lived their until he was 15. Living in a country where soccer is king, Corrales began playing at an early age. When his family relocated to Salinas, California he continued playing year round for the local high school team and in an adult league in the offseason.
"During my senior year, a guy named Greg Peterson saw me play." That turned out to be his big break. "He recommended me for the U.S. National U-18 Team under coach (Jay) Hoffman." Corrales made an immediate impact and started on that team. With his foot now firmly planted inside the door, he moved up the ladder.
"Right after high school, I signed to play pro. First I played with the (California) Jaguars (of the A-League) and then when the MLS started, I moved there." Corrales secured the left back position for the MetroStars and has been a factor in their amazing worst to first resurgence this year. His current focus however, is on helping Team USA survive the first round of the Olympics.
"Ramiro is an important member of this team. He's a left-sided player with a great left peg," says Olympic coach, Clive Charles. Teammate, Peter Vagenas agrees. "I think he's great going forward with the ball, sees the game very well and gives us the option to attack on the left side."
Corrales and his teammates will face the Czech Republic on Sept. 13, Cameroon on Sept. 16 and Kuwait on Sept. 19. Fielding a team for the first time that is composed almost entirely of professional players, America's chances of advancing are regarded as good. No matter how they do, Ramiro Corrales will take his place on the American team with great pride.
"My family used to root for the Mexican National Team, but now they root for the U.S. I'm really honored to be representing all of the Hispanics (in this country). Originally, there were about four or five of us (trying out for this team). I'm the only one that made it, so I am happy about that. I am going to keep working hard and hopefully someday I'll make the full national team."