Shea Salinas being celebrated by his teammates after his final home match, a 2-0 win over Minnesota FC, at Pay Pal Park in San Jose on Saturday Oct 1, 2022. (San Jose Earthquakes)
by Marko Ukalovic
It was a swan sung to remember for Shea Salinas.
The San Jose Earthquakes veteran midfielder, who played in his final home match of his storied career, scored the game winning goal in a 2-0 shutout victory over the Minnesota United on Saturday evening in the home season finale at Pay Pal Park.
Salinas, who announced his retirement from the game this past Wednesday, was given the start in the midfield by interim head coach Alex Covelo in his final home match of his career.
He made the most of his 63 minutes on the pitch with the goal on two shots. The Man of the Match received a standing ovation from the ‘Quakes faithful on hand that witnessed the final time he donned the home jersey. Covelo substituted in forward Benji Kikanovic in the 64th minute.
Salinas’ goal came in the 52nd minute off a free kick just inside the D. His shot deflected off the leg off Emmanuel Reynoso and past United goalkeeper David St. Clair for his first goal of the season. It was the 22nd goal of his 15-year career in his 375th MLS appearance.
Salinas set up his own goal two minutes earlier when he intercepted a pass at midfield and raced down the middle of the pitch only to be tripped up by Michael Boxall before making a shot attempt on net.
“Tonight was special, (it fees) still kind of surreal, the whole thing,” Salinas said after the match. “It doesn’t feel like the last game (at home). I felt good out there but (I’m) also excited for the future. I thought it was a good way to end it, it was fun.”
San Jose won just their eight match of the season with one left go before they wrap it up for 2022. It was big blow to Minnesota’s playoff hopes as they weren’t able to gain any ground as they stood stuck with 45 points, one point ahead of Real Salt Lake for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They are 0-5-1 in their last six matches.
“For me, to coach Shea (Salinas) is a pleasure. I’ve known him since I came here in 2017. He always has been a role model on and off the field. I was on the bench in 2017 when Shea scored the second goal and gave us the victory that day at Stanford. It has been a pleasure,” Covelo said.
Kikanovic gave San Jose (8-15-10) an insurance goal in the 71st minute. Jeremy Ebobisee chipped a ball over Kikanovic out to the middle and he dribbled out the right wing before depositing the ball into the lower left corner for his sixth goal of the season.
Minnesota United (13-14-6) came out flat with hardly any desperation setting up a winner take all scenario heading into Decision Day next Sunday against Vancouver in a race that has five teams separated by only four points.
The best scoring chance for the visiting team came in the 48th minute when a shot from the left wing by Reynoso was knocked away by ‘Quakes goalkeeper JTMarcinkowski and out of danger.
Marcinkowsi finished the match stopping the two shots on target to earn his fourth clean sheet of the season. St. Clair made four saves on six shots on target in the losing effort.
In the end it was a scripted ending perfect for Salinas that everyone had hoped for but no one expected.
Salinas said to closed out by saying “It was pretty funny. They were huddled up, talking about some plan, and I was jokingly over their shoulder like, ‘Hey guys, I’m just going to shoot it,’ and I walked away. But they were like, ‘No, seriously, that’s fine. Shoot it.’ I haven’t taken a direct free kick my entire career. I think God had this all planned out and I got to celebrate.”
GAME NOTES: San Jose finished with seven corner kicks. Minnesota had six.
San Jose is now 5-4-2 all-time vs. Minnesota United FC, including a 3-2-1 record at PayPal Park.
The Earthquakes are now 8-11-7 in MLS play under Covelo.
Minnesota United had it seven match unbeaten streak snapped as they were 5-0-2 previously against San Jose
San Jose has scored 29 goals in the second half this season.
Salinas still holds the club record with 50 assists.
UP NEXT: San Jose closes out the regular season against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday 10/9 at 2:00pm at Lumen Field.