Yallop excited to bring Lenhart, Salinas back to SJ

Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Lenhart

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes dipped into their past Wednesday to help restock their future, signing out-of-contract forward Steven Lenhart to a new deal and trading allocation money to Vancouver in exchange for former Quakes midfielder Shea Salinas.

The Lenhart deal, while not unexpected, was still big news for the Quakes, who went 4-3-6 with the bruising forward in their starting lineup.

San Jose were 4-9-8 without the draft-day acquisition, who scored five goals and notched three assists in 14 appearances before leaving the team for good July 20 on a family leave of absence to deal with the death of his father.

“Knowing we have Steven for four years, it’s relaxing,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “I think he did a really good job with us for the short time we had him. We’re excited to get him back and fully focused on the team now.”

As for Salinas, the club are hoping that the speedy 25-year-old will help put a stop to the right-wing carousel that the team dealt with last season, when Yallop plugged eight different players into that spot, rarely finding the desired production.

Salinas broke into MLS in 2008 with the expansion-era Quakes and spent two seasons in San Jose before being plucked in the 2009 Expansion Draft by the Philadelphia Union. Yallop confirmed that Salinas, whose rookie deal expired at the end of the 2011 season, has already signed off on a new contract.

“We’ve had conversations about getting Shea back [over the years],” Yallop said. “Myself and John [Doyle, San Jose’s general manager] have always been a fan of him. To be able to get him back now with a little bit more experience, more savvy for the game, I think it’s a good move for us.”

The Quakes, meanwhile, get another potential solution on the right wing, a spot where Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Rafael Baca, Bobby Convey, Simon Dawkins, Joey Gjertsen, Jacob Peterson, Khari Stephenson and Chris Wondolowski all saw time for San Jose in 2011. Baca had just about locked down the spot down the strectch, but he still lacks something Salinas brigns to the table: game-breaking speed.

Salinas will also provide a shot of acceleration for a team that went sorely wanting in that area this year. Getting faster during this winter has been high on the wish list for Doyle and Yallop, who waived speedy winger Omar Jasseh mid-season after the Gambian teen failed to develop as hoped.

“It’s something that we’ve lacked,” Yallop said. “We played pretty well at the end [of the season], but we just didn’t have that ability to dribble by people and get crosses in, get shots. Shea’s naturally good at that.

“And Steven Lenhart’s not slow, either. Lenny’s got power and pace, and Shea’s got dribbling ability and speed and quickness. Those are two signings that are going to help us.”

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