Vancouver Whitecaps FC claimed their fourth victory of the season on Saturday afternoon against Houston Dynamo, and it was a Texan who helped them do it.
Shea Salinas scored his first goal of the season in the 86th minute to give his team a 1-0 victory with a smart finish after substitute Long Tan turned his marker and sent the tricky winger through on goal.
“It’s good,” Salinas told MLSsoccer.com when asked how it felt to score against a team from his home state. “Most of my family live in Houston, and my last goal was actually in Houston last year, so it was nice.”
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The match got off to a sputtering start before a ball was even kicked - the United States anthem cut out partway through - but players on both sides continued to misfire well into the match, missing chance after chance. Indeed, it was the goalscoring hero who missed a sitter just before the break shortly after replacing John Thorrington in the 33rd minute.
“I came in, kind of cold, and lost the ball the first two or three times I got it,” Salinas said. “Mustapha [Jarju] played a great ball back to me, Corey Ashe slipped and the ball slides right through to me. I tried to put the ball on frame, but wasn’t able to.”
The fact it was Salinas’ first goal of the year is difficult to fathom, given the multitude of excellent positions he takes up on a game-to-game basis.
“Finally,” Salinas said, was the first thing his teammates said to him after he scored the goal.
“This year I’ve had a lot of chances,” Salinas continued. “I’ve hit the post a few times, missed wide a few times, even in the first half [tonight].”
Just as good as the goal was the setup from substitute Tan, who turned his marker Hunter Freeman with ease before sliding Salinas through on goal. The assist was Tan’s first career Major League Soccer point.
“Long Tan was awesome,” Salinas said. “I didn’t give him the best of passes, but he fought off the defender and turned him, and played me in perfectly, so it was all Long Tan on that one.”
Tan has been scoring goals regularly for the club’s MLS Reserve League and USL Premier Development League squads in recent weeks, and his introduction in the 75th minute proved to be the turning point.
“[Tan] rewarded his team with a good effort and gave Shea a good ball, and let Shea redeem himself for his missed opportunity,” head coach Tom Soehn said. “He had a good hold on the game. He’s an athletic guy and a handful to deal with.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon