SAN JOSE, Calif. – Like a Broadway musical working out the kinks in Boston or San Francisco before opening in New York, “The Return of Shea Salinas” will debut in relative obscurity Friday.
The San Jose winger is expected to see his first competitive action in nearly two months when the Earthquakes’ second unit travels to Chivas USA for a Reserve League match.
“I’m a little nervous,” Salinas said Thursday after training, “but very excited.”
Salinas hasn’t played since receiving a crunching foul from New York’s Rafa Márquez on April 14, an incident that left Salinas with a broken left clavicle and Márquez with a three-match suspension from MLS.
Now, after almost eight full weeks of recovery and rehabilitation, Salinas is ready to step back on the pitch – although he’s not yet back to being the same player who helped key San Jose’s 4-1-1 start with his nonstop activity on the left flank.
“I have full range of motion, but I don’t have full strength in it yet,” Salinas said of his left arm, which required surgery after the collarbone was shattered into four pieces. “I’m still kind of weak [while] shielding guys and maybe defensively not the strongest. But I can still run fast, so that’s good.”
Salinas has been practicing without restrictions, but still faces a tough mental hurdle: playing through his first hard collision. Trepidation about falling on his injured shoulder – even though it’s been reinforced with a metal plate – still lurks in the back of his mind.
“Mentally, even in practice, I’m playing a little scared,” Salinas said. “I’m scared to get in on 50-50 balls, scared to fall down. This [game] should help. ... Once I fall, it will definitely be a good steppingstone in recovery, but I still am nervous to fall. I roll around, but it’s hard to mimic an actual fall.”
Assuming all goes well, Salinas said he feels he’s on track to be available for first-team selection when the Quakes resume their MLS schedule on June 20 in Colorado.
“I think he’s real close,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “He’s itching to get going.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.