When he first arrived in San Jose as the 15th pick in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, Shea Salinas thought he was home.
Four years, three moves and two more MLS teams later, Salinas is home again — and, in his mind, all the better for the experiences gained.
“Being young and a bit naïve, I thought this was where I was going to retire, after my first two years,” Salinas said. “That clearly didn’t happen, but I think I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a player since then. So I’m excited to bring more to the table for this team.”
Salinas made a combined 46 appearances in 2008 and ’09 with the Quakes, scoring twice and tallying five assists. He was plucked by the Philadelphia Union in the Expansion Draft prior to the 2010 season, then went to Vancover last year in similar fashion.
The Quakes brought Salinas back to Northern California in November, acquiring him for allocation money as they tried to revamp a roster that fell well short of the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2011.
“I see a mature young man now,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “He’s 25. And he’s matured in his play. [He’s] cleaner, calmer. He knows a bit more what’s going on in the whole game, and it takes a while [to learn that].”
San Jose made the move to help address their deficiency with regards to speed on the flanks, but though Salinas’ top attribute remains his speed, he feels that’s no longer his only marketable skill.
“Before, I had one gear, and that was, ‘Get the ball and run as fast as you can to the end line and hope your cross goes to someone,’” Salinas said. “It’s still my strongest attribute, being fit and fast, but I think I’ve developed a lot more areas of my game. I can cross the ball better now, [with both my] left and right foot. I’ve become a more rounded player.”
Salinas earned some time at outside back with the Union, providing a harder edge to his defensive game. And as he showed against the Quakes last season, he can play effectively on the left wing despite being right-footed; Salinas tore up San Jose’s defense in delivering a nifty pair of assists to Eric Hassli to spark a 2-2 tie.
“I’m sure that helped,” Salinas said of that performance at Buck Shaw Stadium. “I’ve had good games in the past, [but] the final product wasn’t there. That game, Hassli put two goals away and it was nice that it all came together against a team that potentially wanted me. So it all worked out.”
Though Salinas started 18 matches for the Whitecaps last year, he might be hard-pressed to match that this year with the Quakes, who have added several new faces in midfield. Honduran international Marvin Chávez, in from FC Dallas, is expected to hold down one of the wing spots, and Simon Dawkins, the impressive Tottenham Hotspur player coming on a second loan stint, could make his home on the opposite side of the field.
For his part, Salinas is taking the long view, even though that didn’t work out as planned the first time around.
“I think I’ve played well the last few years,” Salinas said. “[In] Philadelphia, I had a good season, and [in] Vancouver, I had a pretty good season as well. So I wouldn’t say it’s a rebirth, but I’m excited to get my roots in a little bit, and stay in one place for a little longer and hopefully grow with a team. I’ve been with expansion teams every year, so it’s nice to be in a place that’s established.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com