Hovering above a free kick in the 52nd minute, it was time for Shea Salinas to cap off his historic career with a bang. Salinas would fire off a free kick that would deflect into the net, giving the Quakes the lead. Ripping off his shirt for one last time, it was finally time for fans to say goodbye to an icon.
If the Quakes had their own Mount Rushmore, Salinas would be on it next to Wondo. For over a decade, Salinas tore up MLS with his wonderful assists.
So much of Salinas’ career lines up perfectly with the history of the Quakes since their return in 2008. From winning the Supporters’ Shield to being bottom of the league for years, he has seen it all. In that same time, he has written himself into the Quakes’ history books.
While his assist record will likely be broken by Espinoza, Salinas meant so much more to the club than just a number. He, and Wondo, brought stability and leadership to an organization that has truly lacked it. This is, in part, what makes his retirement so bittersweet, as his presence was so massive.
The Quakes must build a statue of him and Wondo some time soon. There isn’t another set of players in MLS history that have meant this much to one team.
Salinas’ career started and ended in San Jose, despite some brief stops elsewhere. In his combined 10+ years in the Bay, he witnessed the club go through so much.
An interesting prospect out of Furman University, the Texan would be drafted by the Quakes 15th overall in 2008. In his first MLS season, Salinas would score twice, coming off the bench for an awful Quakes team. He would remain in San Jose for one more year, showing some more potential.
In 2010, the Quakes left him unprotected in the expansion draft, allowing Philadelphia to draft him. After a year of struggles, Vancouver would select him in another expansion draft in 2011.
Salinas would find some success in Canada before the Quakes would trade for him in 2011. Joining the side for the 2012 season, Salinas would form a formidable partnership with Wondo. In that magical season, his contributions would help the Quakes win the Supporters’ Shield.
The next few seasons would see the club regress, but Salinas would continue to do everything to help the club win. Unlike the club, and other players, Almeyda resurrected Salinas by allowing him to be more free in the attack. Eventually in 2021, he would break the Quakes’ all time assist record, making him an icon.
Father time eventually would catch up with him in 2022, as he barely played. Injuries sidelined the iron man and it seemed inevitable that he would retire at season’s end. Rather than go out with a whimper, Salinas would go out with a bang, scoring the Quakes’ first free kick in ages.
Salinas spent all but two seasons in the Bay and in that time, he became the club’s second most iconic player. Now the Quakes must deal with a new era without Salinas or Wondo.
Like Wondo, Salinas is a player that has created special moments for every fan. From his goals against the Galaxy to shepherding the next generation, he will sorely be missed.
It’s hard to divorce Salinas’ time in San Jose from his incredible performances against the Galaxy. For well over a decade, Salinas terrorized the backlines of different iterations of the Galaxy backline. To Quakes fans, being a demon to the Galaxy is what makes any player an icon.
His iconic winner and celebration in the 2017 clasico will forever live with fans. Coming off the bench with the game tied, Salinas knew he was going to score. With the clock dwindling, he received the ball and volleyed it home, ripping off his jersey to celebrate.
Be it with a flaming cross or thumping shot, Salinas could be counted on by fans and players to change games. It’s not just that he could change games, but he was also a stabilizing force.
In his goodbye video to Salinas, Tommy Thompson noted just how big of a role model Salinas had been to him. Multiple other players, including Espinoza, said similar things, underscoring his importance. Salinas was a player that others could look towards during a game to stabilize situations and empower others.
For a club that has been in a constant state of chaos since 2012, Salinas was a leader who calmed the chaos. Whenever things were falling apart, players could count on him or Wondo to step up and guide them out of things. It’s part of what will make him impossible to replace, as he was more than just a clutch performer, but a leader.
Salinas’ 12 combined years in San Jose were filled with more lows than highs, but he was still able to forge his own path. He became an MLS veteran and icon that meant the world to Quakes fans.
As he stepped off the field for one final time on Saturday, fans had to say goodbye to yet another player who meant everything to this organization. A year after Wondo retired, Salinas joined him and now the team must enter their new era without two of their greatest players. With an uncertain future for the team, all fans can do is thank Salinas for the memories and wish him the best.
Also, it’s time for both him and Wondo to receive their own statues at PayPal Park.
Featured image: MLS