The San Jose Earthquakes may have come away with zero points from their Tuesday visit to the Portland Timbers, but there was one consolation prize from their 2-1 defeat: Shea Salinas started an MLS regular-season match for the first time since April 14.
Salinas hadn’t opened a game since being ridden to the turf by New York Red Bulls midfielder Rafa Márquez with such force that it shattered Salinas’ left clavicle. The 26-year-old Texas native needed surgery to repair his bone, and underwent more than two months’ worth of rehabilitation before returning to the Quakes’ first XI.
HIGHLIGHT: POR 2, SJ 1
“It took Shea a little bit of time to get into it,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop. “I think he did OK for his first start. It’s not easy. He’s been out for a long time. Just to throw him in and play from the start, I thought he did well.”
Salinas, who made two appearances off the bench last month, wasn’t really satisfied with what he was able to bring to the Quakes’ left flank, where he had started off the year in fine form.
“I personally don’t think I played too well,” Salinas said. “My crossing wasn’t very good. I turned the ball over a few times. I worked very hard, but just couldn’t seem to get things going. … It might be a little rust, but I don’t really have any excuses.”
There was a positive note: Salinas is clearly no longer concerned, even subconsciously, about the health of his shoulder. After a heavy collision in the 26th minute with Portland center back Futty Danso, Salinas bounced right back up. After the match, he said he “didn’t even think” about the injury as that incident unfolded.
Salinas should get more use as the Quakes plow their way through five more regular-season matches in the next 25 days. Marvin Chávez has been San Jose’s most effective wing player, but as Yallop pointed out, it’s unrealistic to expect the speedy Honduran to be an iron man in every match, especially given the long, energy-sapping runs that are his trademark.
Having logged 268 minutes since June 20, Chávez opened Tuesday’s match on the bench before coming on in the 59th minute to help provide a spark.
“You’ve got to look at the workload of players,” Yallop said. “Someone like Marvin, you’d love to play him 90 minutes every game, but you’ve got to make sure you’re not overrunning him. We’re trying to mix it up a little bit, making sure that we’re trying to keep as fresh as possible.”
Salinas knows that will give him a chance to sand down the rough edges that showed Tuesday, and get back to being the player who helped key San Jose’s flying start to the season.
“I just need to be more consistent in possession,” Salinas said. “I need to keep the ball for my team at times. I’m off on my crosses, off on my passes, too. I need to get those honed in and that’s what I need to improve on.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.