Shea Salinas was acquired by the San Jose Earthquakes on Nov. 30, in a trade with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The midfielder, now in his fifth professional season, was originally San Jose’s top selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, atop the second round (No. 15 overall), out of Furman University in Greenville, S.C. Salinas spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons in San Jose prior to being selected by the Philadelphia Union in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft.
Along with Anthony Ampaipitakwong and rookie Sam Garza, Salinas is one of three players on the current Quakes roster who are natives of the state of Texas, having grown up in Grapevine. He is approaching a milestone of 100 MLS games played for his career, currently at 91.
SJEarthquakes.com caught up with Salinas following a recent training session in San Jose. He and his Earthquakes teammates are in Toronto, Canada, to take on Toronto FC on Saturday at BMO Field (10 a.m. PT / CSN California, TSN, 1590 KLIV, 1370 KZSF).
SJEarthquakes.com: The Quakes have gone 1-1 through two games at home to open the 2012 season. How would you rate the team’s performance here in the early going?
Shea Salinas: Good. I think the last game, especially in the second half, we played really well. We won the first game, so that’s a great result. The last game we lost, but we played really well. I think we’re progressing nicely, and I’m looking forward to a good season.
SJEQ: You’ve played all 90 minutes of each of these first two matches, and assisted on the game-winner against New England. How do you feel about your own play and adaptation period to this squad?
SS: I think I‘m playing well. I’m working as hard as I possibly can, and that’s all I can control. There are things that I could get better at, but my work ethic’s there, so hopefully that pays off.
SJEQ: What are your thoughts on returning to San Jose and setting up the winning goal in your first game back in front of the home crowd?
SS: Being back in San Jose is really nice. The fans are great. The weather’s great. My teammates are great. It was great setting up that first goal and starting the season off like that. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.
SJEQ: You were the first new acquisition back in late November of a club that was coming off a sub-par 2011. You then observed a busy offseason for the franchise. What was your thinking when you first got traded to San Jose, and then leading up through preseason training camp?
SS: I was really excited. I was happy that the coaching staff and management wanted me back. I was even more excited when they started bringing in guys like Marvin (Chavez), Tressor (Moreno) and Victor (Bernardez). I want to be on a good team. I want to be on a team that makes the playoffs, so I was really excited when they brought all of these guys in.
SJEQ: As a professional soccer player, how did you take being left unprotected and then subsequently getting selected in back-to-back expansion drafts in 2009 (Philadelphia) and 2010 (Vancouver)?
SS: It’s a tough decision for the coaches when the expansion draft comes along. It’s always disappointing not to get protected, but it’s also nice that a team wants you. I was picked up both years. On one hand, you’re kind of left behind, but on the other, a team wants you and takes a chance on you.
SJEQ: From when you were here before, and your one-year spells in Philadelphia and Vancouver, talk to us about now having a striker tandem up top the likes of Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, and what they can do for your game as a wing midfielder?
SS: Playing with Wondo and Lenny is great. They attack balls on crosses. Wondo finishes almost everything you give to him. As a winger, as a midfielder who depends on assists, it’s really nice playing with those guys, so I think it will be a good season.
SJEQ: First road test up in Toronto this week, knowing of course what that squad did in two matches against the LA Galaxy to advance to the semifinal round of the CONCACAF Champions League. What kind of a match do you expect?
SS: Yeah, they’re playing really well. (TFC forward) Ryan Johnson’s on fire, scoring goals. Their back line, they have a few injuries, so hopefully we can exploit that, but we just have to go on the road and get a win. That’s what it’s all about, is starting the season off with a road win.
SJEQ: Tough two-game road stretch ahead before you return home. What, in general, does this team need to do in order to find more success in away matches?
SS: I think it’s all about the mentality. We saw that Houston had it when they came here. No matter what it takes, just get the win. Have a winning mentality. Even if it’s not pretty, we have to grind it out and get points on the road. A winning mentality on the road is so important.
SJEQ: This is your second go-around with head coach Frank Yallop. What kind of a coach is he?
SS: He’s a great coach. He talks to the players well. He’s honest, which I think is the most important thing in a coach. He understands the players, and he’s great to play for. It’s been nice so far.
SJEQ: On a personal level, what types of things do you enjoy doing away from the game?
SS: I like to go to church with my wife (Julie). I bought a Jeep, an old CJ-7, so I like to cruise around with the top off. And I like coaching. Anything with kids, so coaching soccer is a lot of fun as well.
Favorite Quake on Twitter: Anthony Ampaipitakwong (@AnthonyAmpai).
Favorite TV Show: Modern Family.
Favorite Food: Mexican.
Favorite Foreign Team: FC Barcelona.
Favorite Player: Lionel Messi.
Follow Shea on Twitter: @SalinasSJ11