The Earthquakes have begun the process of re-shaping their roster for 2012. They announced today that they have re-signed forward Steven Lenhart to a contract extension and acquired midfielder Shea Salinas from Vancouver Whitecaps FC in exchange for allocation money.
Lenhart, 25, originally joined the Earthquakes in Jan. 2011 as part of a trade that saw the Earthquakes give up their first-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money to the Columbus Crew.
The big-target forward got off to a strong start as an Earthquake, scoring five goals and tallying three assists, but missed the last half of the season after being granted a leave of absence to attend to family matters his father had passed away at the beginning of the 2011 season.
Obviously a very, very tough year for Steven as a young man losing his father, said Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop, adding that he believed Lenhart was ready to focus on soccer again. I think he feels ready to go. Nobody forced him to re-sign, he did it on his own terms.
The undoubted highlight of Lenharts time with the Earthquakes was his hat trick against D.C. United in June that earned him the North American Soccer Repoters MLS Player of the Week award. Before leaving the team, he was on pace for his most productive season yet, having collected his five goals and three assists in just 1,163 minutes. He was already just one goal away from matching his personal best over a season, the six goals he scored with Columbus in 2010, which he amassed over a period of 1,640 minutes.
I thought Steven was great for us in the games he was available. He was a big part of that six-game unbeaten streak we had and were looking forward to having him paired up with Chris Wondolowski at the top of our attack in 2012, said Earthquakes general manager of soccer operations John Doyle.
Salinas, also 25, was the only played selected by the Earthquakes in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, going 15th overall. He made 46 appearances over two years with San Jose, tallying two goals and five assists. Salinas was subsequently picked in consecutive MLS Expansion Drafts, playing in 2010 for the Philadelphia Union and 2011 for the Whitecaps, where he registered a goal and three assists over 26 appearances (18 starts) for the last-placed team.
Were excited to bring Shea back to San Jose, Doyle said. Hes a versatile guy who can play in the midfield, up top or even as an outside defender. His high work rate and pace should be a big help to us next season.
In addition to his versatility, Salinas brings plenty of speed to the field and could help fill the creative gap left by the departing Bobby Convey, as well as other players such as midfielder Simon Dawkins whose futures with the team remain uncertain.
Shea is an option to play wide left, wide right, Yallop said, adding that the player is most comfortable on the right. We know Shea, I've had a good chat with him and he's excited to be coming back and wants to be here.
When asked if the Earthquakes had lacked a quick player like Salinas in the 2011 season, Yallop responded affirmatively.
If you look, yeah, we did miss a player like Salinas, he said. Weve been trying to get that kind of player for a long time, but its difficult.
Yallop further explained that Salinas will proved useful in breaking down teams that tend to press more, with the players speed providing a big boost in being able to get behind teams back lines.
The Earthquakes also declined to pick up contract options on several players, including Convey. Joining Convey in their availability for selection in Dec. 5s Re-Entry Draft are defender Chris Leitch midfielder Andre Luiz Moreira, midfielder Jacob Peterson, forward Scott Sealy and goalkeeper Andrew Weber. The Earthquakes could still bring some of these players back at a lower deal.
Yallop highlighted Leitch and Peterson as two players who stood out among the list of players who had their options declined, saying that there could be a chance we get them on a decent salary.
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