When Shea Salinas was originally told his left fibula fracture would keep him out 4-6 weeks, his instinctive reaction was that it would take him about half that amount of time to recover. Eight weeks later, however, the speedy and versatile winger/fullback is still working towards his return to action.
Salinas last saw the field against his former club, the San Jose Earthquakes, coming on as a substitute in the 64th minute. For the season, the 24-year-old has played in 11 matches and started seven times, amassing 659 minutes while playing effectively both as a wide midfielder and outside back. Salinas’ lone goal on the season came on May 29, a spectacular effort that was voted AT&T Goal of the Week.
For Salinas, the objective right now is clear: get back on the pitch, and in a hurry.
“(The leg) feels good,” he told philadelphiaunion.com on Friday. “I just need to get fit now. The leg is (100 percent), but I have some other issues. The fracture is good, but fitness, all my muscles are sore. I’m tight and everything, just from not playing in two months. I should be back in a few weeks, a week.”
For a player with the type of fighting spirit that Salinas possesses, the past two months have been a personally challenging time. In fact, his desire to play through pain likely contributed to the lengthy duration of his absence.
“I think I just had a strained calf muscle, which caused me to run funny for a few games,” he reflected. “That’s where I got the stress fracture.”
But even when his leg worsened and it became clear that he was dealing with a more severe injury, Salinas never imagined he’d be sidelined this long.
“When I first got it (the stress fracture) they said 4-6 weeks, and in my head that meant three weeks, two weeks,” he said. “But it’s been the worst injury I’ve ever had just because I can’t do anything. I wasn’t able to run. All I can do is bike and swim. It’s tough to stay fit that way. It’s been the longest I’ve ever been out in my life actually, so it’s been awful.”
[inline_node:287026]What’s made the prolonged absence even more frustrating is seeing his club linger near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings despite often playing well enough to deserve better results.
“Yeah, absolutely, it’s tough to watch at any time,” Salinas said. “It’s tough to watch when they’re successful, because you want to be part of the success, and it’s even tougher to watch when they’re not doing well because guys aren’t showing up happy all the time. Things get rough when you’re not winning games, but the locker room has been good so far. It’s been really rough to sit out and watch.”
When Salinas finally does come back, the obvious question is where he’ll slot into the club’s lineup. If you ask Salinas, he’ll tell you he truly doesn’t care, so long as he’s getting minutes.
“I do not have a preference,” he said. “I told the coaching staff that I am willing to play anywhere. I’ve been watching a lot of the right back and left back positions because I hadn’t played there much before, so I’ve been studying players and watching the game. I am excited to go back and play that position. It’s a lot of fun on this team because you get to go forward, so I’m just excited to start playing again.”
With Salinas’ return seemingly around the corner, at last, the Furman University product is finally allowing himself to look forward to stepping back out on the pitch.
“Oh, it’s exciting,” he said, smiling just at the thought of playing a competitive match. “I practiced yesterday for the first time, a full practice, and it was so fun. I was exhausted afterwards though, so just a few more days like that and I think I’ll be good to go.”