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Shea Salinas is a midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes. The veteran, in his second stint with the Quakes after playing for the Philadelphia Union and Vancouver Whitecaps, has led San Jose in assists the past two seasons and helped them to the 2012 Supporters' Shield. With the club set to open Avaya Stadium in MLS play against the Chicago Fire on Sunday (7pm ET, FOX Sports 1,FOX Deportes, FOX Sports GO), Salinas discussed the stadium opening from a player's perspective, working with coach Dominic Kinnear and more.
Rodriguez: Let’s start with last weekend’s result, when the Quakes beat Seattle in pretty impressive circumstances. It was only the second game of the season, but you had been on a long winless streak since last year. Do you feel like a monkey’s off your back, in a sense, in getting that win?
Salinas: Well for us, we never really kept track of the streak. Once this year started, it was a new season; last season we put behind us. Going into that game, we knew it was going to be a very difficult game. [Seattle] played very well against New England, so we were hoping to get a result, and the way the game started, it was looking like it was not going to go in our favor, but the guys played amazing and we came out of there with three points. Afterward, everyone talked about the streak is over, and that’s kind of when we realized it had been a long time since we won a game. It felt pretty good.
Rodriguez: Obviously the talk heading into this weekend is about the MLS debut of Avaya Stadium. You’ve been with the team since the stadium was announced and throughout the construction process. What’s it feel like for the players to see the day arrive where you’ll be playing in your new home?
Salinas: Yeah, it’s kind of surreal that we’re actually going to be playing in Avaya Stadium, in our own stadium this weekend. I was here in 2008 and 2009 as well, and there were talks of a stadium then when I was here, and then I came back in 2012 and still there was no stadium. But now, eight years into the league, they have their own stadium, and it’s really exciting for us to be able to open it on Sunday, and it’s very different from Buck Shaw.
Rodriguez: How are the new facilities? Is everyone settling in well?
Salinas: The new facilities are amazing. … You’re training there every day and walking back to the locker room. That consistency just makes things a lot easier. It’s a long season. It kind of gets to a grind toward the end of the season, and you’re always having to drive to the training facility or you don’t have the best locker room, it makes things a little more difficult. But this year we’ve got that consistency. It’s exciting to have.
Rodriguez: You’ve been with three MLS expansion teams in your career. I wonder, do you think a stadium opening is similar to an expansion team playing their first home game? From the outside, it seems like there would be some similarities.
Salinas: Yeah, for me I think it’s the same. There’s a ton of adrenaline and the fans are all excited, the players are really excited, and it’s something new for everyone. I’ve played three expansion years. I’ve been able to open quite a few stadiums, so it’s definitely a big adrenaline rush when you’re running out there for the first time and you hear the national anthem. That newness to it is an awesome feeling.
Rodriguez: Are you going to have any tips for your teammates in walking out with that extra adrenaline?
Salinas: No. I mean, it’s exciting, you kind of just embrace it. I remember opening up PPL Park in Philly and kind of getting the chills during the national anthem. All the fans were singing, it was just an awesome feeling. So there’s not really any advice you can give anyone other than just embrace it and have fun.
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Rodriguez: Besides the stadium opening, another big change for this season is Dominic Kinnear returning to San Jose as coach. He’s obviously had considerable success in MLS – what has it been like working with him so far?
Salinas: Playing for Dom has been great so far. I think just the pedigree and the kinds of experience he brings instantly demands and gets respect from all the players. So when he says something, he’s won championships before and he’s been successful; it would probably be a good idea to listen. So it’s been nice playing for him. He’s helped me out a lot as an outside midfielder, just kind of giving me some tips.
I think as a team, we all work really hard for him. You could see that in Seattle.
Rodriguez: Final question: You’ve led the Quakes in assists the last two seasons. I know players typically say they don’t pay attention to personal statistics, but I wonder if part of your motivation each year is to reach a certain benchmark statistically? Does that personal element help push you in contributing to the team cause?
Salinas: I think if you’re doing well, providing assists, that means the team’s scoring goals. So that’s a good thing. It’s nice having [Chris Wondolowski] to pass to. Sometimes my assists are mostly his hard work, which is nice as well. But I think personally, I go into the game trying to help the team as much as possible, and as an outside midfielder that usually consists of getting assists. Before games, I try to tell myself, ‘Let’s create chances, let’s be dangerous.’ So that’s my perspective on that – not necessarily trying to get statistics, but trying to help the team be dangerous and score goals.