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Season review: Shea Salinas

Editor’s note: PSP is running season reviews for each Philadelphia Union player — one per weekday for the next few weeks. You can read all the reviews here.

Philadelphia Union midfielder Shea Salinas had a season that was just a tad bit up and down. At its highs, he looked like he could be one of Major League Soccer’s best players. At its lows, he couldn’t get off the bench.

The Union passed on hometown guy and 2010 MLS Comeback Player of the Year Bobby Convey to take Salinas, but amazingly, you don’t hear many complain about it.

That’s because Salinas was the Union’s most exciting player this year. (Yes, even more so than the team’s best player, Sebastien Le Toux.) His speed on the attack dazzled. He scored against Houston what might be the most brilliant goal of the season in the entire league. He showed he could play multiple positions. He could defend as a right back, and he could attack as an outside midfielder. There seemed to be almost nothing Salinas couldn’t do.

Except stay healthy. He came into training camp with an injury, and it marginalized him at the outset. Later, a fractured leg cost him a third of the season, and he was slow to work back into the rotation, in part because it took time to recover fitness. All told, he started just seven of 30 games this season and played in 17. As exciting as he was to watch, we simply didn’t get to watch enough of him. He played less than 1,000 minutes. For a guy who left such an impression, that’s a staggeringly small amount of cumulative playing time.

2010 statistics

17 games (7 starts), 795 minutes, 1 goal, 11 shots (7 on goal), 2 offsides, 7 fouls caused, 11 fouls suffered

High point

His ridiculous goal against Houston. It should be MLS goal of the year. To see it, click here and go to the 58-second mark.

Low point

Fracturing his leg and missing so many games due to injury.

Strengths

Speed. Salinas is fast. Quick-twitch fast. Explosive fast. Zero to 60 in six seconds fast. Twitter account titled SpeedSalinas11 fast. Jet packs hidden in his cleats fast. Roadrunner just left behind a dust cloud fast.

OK, you get the idea.

That speed lets him break down dribblers off the dribble, fly by them on runs and get off shots by freeing room for himself. He and Sheanon Williams are the only guys on the Union with speed like that. It adds a unique dynamic to the team. When Salinas plays, the Union are more dangerous offensively. When he comes off the bench and everyone but him is tired, that’s only magnified.

He also has the versatility to play on both wings or at right back and maybe even striker. And if that’s not enough, he goes to libraries to read to kids and other feel-good stuff like that. Geez. Maybe he’s kind to puppies too.

Weaknesses

Fitness. He went into training camp with an injury and took a while to crack the lineup because of it. Then he fractured his leg and didn’t get a ton of playing time once he came back. Before the injury, he rarely went the full 90. He needs to come into training camp fully fit in terms of health and endurance.

Outlook

If Salinas can stay healthy and improve his conditioning, he can be a star in Major League Soccer. Like I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not talking about some nebulous day far off down the road, when some vast pools of potential are finally realized. I’m talking about next season. He has the speed and ball skills to do it, and there’s enough talent there that he could break into the U.S. national team talent pool. (Then he can join another Texan who went to Furman University and became a star: Clint Dempsey.) If he returns healthy and fit, he projects as a starting right midfield, though expect him to have to earn that in training camp, because he hasn’t started a game in several months.

But right now, it’s a numbers game. The Union can only protect 11 players for next week’s expansion draft. Salinas should be a no-brainer to be one of them, but it doesn’t mean he will be. (This puff piece might be a reassuring tipoff though. Subtext: He has roots here, loves it here, isn’t going anywhere.) It all depends on what Union Manager Peter Nowak and his No. 2 man John Hackworth prioritize. They’re going to lose some players. Maybe they could get lucky and have Portland and Vancouver pick someone else, but that’s unlikely to happen for a guy who deserves the MLS Goal of the Year.

If Salinas is left unprotected, there’s no way he’s not picked by Portland or Vancouver, unless their management teams are dumber than whoever it was who thought American fans would respond positively to a team named after a big corporation. He’ll then go there and immediately be the most exciting player for some other team.

Most Union fans would rather keep him here, and if they’re smart (which I think they are), Union management will too.

(Photo: Paul Rudderow)

2 Comments

  1. You forgot one strength – or maybe it’s a weakness – he’s a sucker for IHoP. 😉

  2. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Expansion draft shock

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