Like one of Shea Salinas’ well-delivered crosses, Earthquakes play-by-play man Dan Dibley nailed it when he referred to Salinas as "The Tablesetter" during the Quakes’ 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 9.
Salinas assisted Chris Wondolowski on the dramatic winning goal with a deft corner kick in the 69th minute.
"That’s funny," Salinas said of Dibley’s "Tablesetter" decree. "I don’t know what to say about that. My wife (Julie) is the only one who’s called me that, as far as setting the dinner table, but not in soccer."
To borrow from pop culture, "The Butler" moniker might also apply to Salinas, who entered the week tied for eighth in MLS in assists with eight and tied for second in game-winning assists with four.
Then, Salinas is doing more than complementing the Quakes’ attack – he’s oftentimes driving it in the final third. And the super-quick, 150-pound wing never seems to tire.
"Shea’s done really well for us," interim coach Mark Watson said in the run-up to Sunday’s huge road match the LA Galaxy. "He works hard for us every day. He’s got a great engine. His biggest thing is he’s very good running at defenders. He’s been very effective at that this year."
The Quakes’ focus is primarily on cracking the top five out West and making the playoffs. After the Galaxy game, they also need to beat CD Heredia Guatemala on Oct. 23 to advance to the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Leading up to his clutch assist against the Rapids, Salinas could sense something big was about to happen.
"The guys were battling all night, 50-50 balls and things like that. We’d had quite a few set pieces, which was great for us," Salinas said. "Guys were fighting for everything. We had quite a few corners up to that point, and that one, I was just doing the same thing that I always do. We have big guys in the box that can attack the ball and win headers. I’m just trying to put the ball in a dangerous spot for one of them to get on the end of it, and that’s what Wondo did. He fought his man off, stayed strong, and put the ball in the back of the net. It was great."
Salinas says the Quakes alter their attacking style based on the opponent. If teams are pressing them up high, then they won’t be passing the ball around a lot in the back.
"For the most part, the league knows what we like to do," he said. "We like to get the ball wide and get crosses in and things like that. You play to your strengths. We have guys that can finish the ball in the box, so we’re trying to get the ball in the box."
Watson said the team tries to put Salinas in those attacking situations as often as possible.
"When he does get into good spots, his crossing and his service has been good as well, so I think that in the last couple of months he really raised his level," Watson said. "Without his service for our strikers, we probably wouldn’t have scored as many goals."
There are a lot of speedy wingers, but Salinas seems to match his natural flare with an inner fire. When defenders start to wear down in the second half, Salinas, 27, a native of Lubbock, TX, keeps finding that extra gear.
His fitness comes through hard work and focus, day in and day out.
"He’s got a fantastic attitude," Watson said. "He gives you a 100 percent every day in the practice and in the games. It’s basically nonstop when he’s on the field. He just goes 100 percent. He’s obviously got talent, but his fitness level is excellent."
Those looking ahead to Sunday’s latest must-win for the Quakes will remember that Salinas had one of his best games against LA on June 28. He factored in all three goals in a come-from-behind, 3-2 win at Stanford Stadium. He assisted Alan Gordon in the 68th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1, scored his first goal since March 2012 to tie it in the 92nd minute, and then dished to Sam Cronin, who chipped to Gordon for the winner in the 93rd minute.
Wondolowski, who scored his 10th goal of the season against the Rapids, expressed his awe and admiration for Salinas after the game. Salinas also praised Wondolowski, whose never-say-die persona has proved contagious.
"No matter how many chances we’ve had, or not had, we still believe that we’re in it every game," Salinas
said. "We’ve scored a lot of late goals because of that mentality, and Wondo’s had a lot of late game-winners because of that mentality: Never giving up. All it takes is one cross and one finish to win a game."
Salinas said that during halftime talks, players will say, "Keep going...keep going...all it takes is one."
And one "Tablesetter" to deliver it.
- Richter Media