Shea Salinas is in his 11th season with the San Jose Earthquakes in a 13-season MLS career to date, and he’s still got some tricks up his sleeves.
Salinas has scored two goals this season, but both have been consequential, coming off the bench and either jumpstarting or capping off comebacks by the Quakes to win. The most recent example came Sunday, when Salinas scored the equalizer that propelled San Jose to their first-ever win over LAFC, in Los Angeles.
As a player who is primarily a bench option at this point in his career, Salinas admitted he saw a different spirit in his team while he was waiting to get on the field Sunday.
“Yeah, I think first of all from the bench I was just impressed with our fight, our energy,” he told reporters in the postgame press conference. “They’re not an easy team to mark. And guys are just flying around the field, getting in tackles, winning 50-50 balls, slide tackling, pressing hard. We did not give them much space in their attacking third. So I was just from the bench just impressed with our guys’ effort. And then to get subbed in, you want to match that effort, you want to bring energy to the game. And so being able to do that was good. And all the guys that got subbed in brought an energy, got stuck into tackles. We were able to come out with three points, which was needed.”
Salinas replaced Marcos Lopez at left back in the game, the Peruvian emerging in recent weeks to be the starter in that position. For Salinas, long a winger in MLS, there’s a distinction in the role for the starter and substitute in that position.
“I think it’s a different role when you start the game at left back, as opposed to coming off the bench,” he explained. “You know when you come off the bench the midfielder is usually a little more tired, wants to cheat a little more. So I’m able to attack a lot more when I come off the bench in that role. And I think that’s what Matias wants. Starting in that role is much different. There’s a lot more defending that you have to do and so I think I’m more comfortable playing left back coming off the bench.
“But honestly I said this before, I just want to be on the field so I’ll try my hardest wherever I am,” Salinas added. “You won’t ever doubt my effort. Sometimes it doesn’t always turn out the way I want it to, but I’ll give it 100%. And tonight, it worked out, Vako was holding the ball up and allowing me to get forward. And then we were able to attack down that side a few times.”
The win over LAFC was particularly cathartic given San Jose had gone the previous nine in all competitions without a victory. Head coach Matias Almeyda has said repeatedly the compressed scheduled, with teams like the Earthquakes playing two games a week for most weeks, hurts preparation.
The 34-year-old Salinas says not getting a rest just plain hurts, too.
“I mean, the amount of games we’ve had is something I’ve never seen in my career. And so, energy levels just ... it’s difficult to maintain. It’s difficult to get yourself up every three days for another game when you’re sore and bruised. But we did it tonight, and we showed ourselves that we can keep doing it and now we got a six-day break which will feel like an eternity. Because the last nine games we haven’t had more than three. So we have some tired legs and beat up bodies but we came through tonight, which is big for us,” he said.
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