Over the course
of a long MLS season, successful clubs need versatile players who can fill
effectively holes as they arise. Whether opportunities come up due to injuries,
matchups or simply the need for a change of pace, the more flexibility on a
roster, the better.
Enter Shea Salinas.
The former star at Furman University, who started his professional career with the San Jose Earthquakes, has played both in the midfield and in the back for Philadelphia, showing tremendous burst and confidence in both roles.
Against Houston, Salinas displayed his dangerous attacking abilities, notching MLS' Goal of the Week with a combination of quickness, straight line speed, ball control, determination and deft finishing. Against Seattle in the inaugural match at PPL Park, with Michael Orozco Fiscal sitting due a red card suspension, in came Salinas as a right back to shut down speedy winger Steve Zakuani, who had given fits to David Myrie in the club’s first ever match.
Whatever is needed, whereever it’s needed.
While some may argue that Salinas’ speed and creativity is wasted in the back, it’s not. The all-purpose weapon routinely makes runs into enemy territory, and he can afford to do so because of his ability to track back and catch up with the opposing side’s counter attack.
For Salinas, it’s all about getting on the pitch and making the club better regardless of where he lines up at the opening whistle.
“I feel like we’re improving as a club each time we take the field in practice and in the game,” said the 24-year-old. “For me, it’s been great to get this kind of playing time. Every game, I feel like I’m getting my footing and I’m feeling more and more comfortable. As a club, we’re showing improvement in every area. I think we have so much talent on this club.”
Having the chance to play a chunk of games at PPL Park could pay big dividends for the Union, who are 2-0-1 at home, including a 3-1 victory over Seattle in the only match played at PPL Park thus far.
“We knew it was going to be a grind playing so much on the road, but I think we have handled it very well,” Salinas said. “We got better every game, and I think seeing the improvement was good. With a lot of home games now and being more experienced, I think you’re going to see even more improvement, which is exciting.”
Playing the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday will be equally exciting for Salinas.
In 2008, he became only third rookie since 2001 to start the season opener for San Jose, playing 57 minutes at forward on April 3 at the L.A. Galaxy.
Last season, Salinas played in 23 games while starting 13. He was second on the club with five assists.
The circumstances now are much different playing for Philadelphia. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve had a great experience here with the Union,” Salinas said. “I think you always want to do well against your former club. I have friends over there. Like Sebastien (Le Toux) against Seattle, you want to win, and then you can catch up with your friends after the game. During the game, it’s all business. Sure, I want to win, but I want it for us as a club. Will it be a little extra special? You could say that.
“It’s been such a thrill to be here with this expansion club. The fans are so passionate and having them behind us is amazing.”
For manager Peter Nowak and his technical staff, having a player like Salinas is pretty darn nice too.