It was Mustapha Jarju’s Major League Soccer debut, but Shea Salinas stole the show in San Jose Wednesday night, helping the Vancouver Whitecaps come back twice against the Earthquakes by setting up Eric Hassli for two goals in a 2-2 draw.
The Texan winger dazzled his markers time and time again in front of 8,122 at Buck Shaw Stadium, culminating in a mazy run to set up Hassli for the Whitecaps second goal of the match, which clinched the away draw for his side.
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The winger has been very good at beating defenders one-on-one this season, but his final ball has been the obvious missing link. That changed Wednesday night.
“It’s nice, I’m glad it’s happening,” Salinas said after the match. “But my stats don’t matter — the points do.”
Despite making the difference in this match, Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn feels Salinas has more to contribute.
“We talked at half time and we motivated him and to his credit he stepped it up and delivered ... he was a handful,” Soehn said. “He can do that every game and that’s what we need out of him. He had his mind set that no one was going to get in his way and he created our opportunities. For him, that last stretch was fantastic, but we have to turn it into 90 minutes.”
The draw means Vancouver put an end to their four-game losing streak, but conceding a goal to last season’s MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski in the fourth minute was not the start the ‘Caps wanted.
“I was very disappointed with the start of the match,” Soehn said. “We were flat to start and it took a goal to wake us up. After that we were pressing a little bit better. We created a few opportunities. But I think we made a few naïve mistakes tonight. We let guys get through too easy.”
Despite defensive lapses which led to goals conceded, the Whitecaps showed great resolve to come back. Hassli caused the San Jose defense trouble all night, and his best moment of the match came in the 42nd minute, as he hammered a low hard shot past Earthquakes 'keeper Jon Busch.
“I have to see that guy at practice every day, unfortunately,” goalkeeper Joe Cannon joked when asked about Hassli. “I thought Jon [Busch] had a hand on the first goal, but he just buried it. I don’t think any goalie is thinking that he is going to hit the outside right, but that just shows the quality of the player he is.”