Shea Salinas has been called many things since entering Major League Soccer in 2008: pacey, quick, elusive, creative, etc. However, goal-scorer has typically not been one of them.
In 11 years from April 3, 2008 – his MLS debut – through March of this season, Salinas scored 13 goals in 286 appearances. He has tallied four this month alone, averaging one goal every 82 minutes.
What’s been his secret for success?
“I don’t know that necessarily anything has changed,” explained the 32-year-old from the team hotel in Frisco. “I think a big part of it is that whenever I get the ball, I want to be dangerous. I’ve always wanted to score goals and have assists. Cristian [Espinoza] has been unbelievable getting to the end-line and sending balls across. Coach [Matias Almeyda] has been telling me to get in the box when that happens. Two of them have been tap-ins and the other two came from running at guys and being able to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Salinas isn’t just scoring at a personal record pace. In fact, no player in MLS has scored more goals this calendar month than the Lubbock, Texas native. Salinas joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela and Nani – three of the biggest names in MLS today – with a league-best four goals apiece in April.
“It’s cool, but I know it’s nothing to let your head get big over. This is the first time I’ve had this many goals so I don’t want to be too prideful. We’ve played really well as a team. Fortunately, I’ve been able to score some goals for us. My role is to work really hard on both sides of the ball and try to be dangerous in the attack and hopefully more goals come.”
It’s a common superstition in sports that when a player has a successful month, or any specific length of time, they don’t want that period to end. Salinas says he takes no stock in that notion.
“I haven’t put much thought into that. I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t like getting into habits because then you depend on them. My superstition is to not be superstitious. I don’t really care what month it is; I just want to keep going out there and doing what we’ve been doing.”
Salinas is quick to point out that much of his personal success can be attributed to a strong turnaround by the whole club, which erased an early four-match losing streak to become one of hottest in recent weeks.
“I think the team is progressing really well. The fight that we’ve shown in the last four games has been amazing. I think it’s a combination of starting to figure out the system and also buying into how much running and how much effort it takes.”
The Quakes have not been given an easy start to 2019. In addition to playing many of the most competitive sides in Major League Soccer, two of their first four road matches take place midday in Texas.
“This Saturday is going to be tough. It’s a quick turnaround. It’s also the middle of the day in Texas, which is not a game you ever want to see on your schedule. But it’s a good opportunity for us to persevere, to show that we’re mentally tough. And that’s what we want to do.”
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. PT and the match can be watched and/or heard live on Univision, Twitter, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.