Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On Brek Shea

I've spilled a lot of virtual ink on Brek Shea. Like, a lot. So, as Shea possibly prepares to take his first important call up this week against Jamaica, I want to pull out a few of these past points that can still serve a purpose. I think, as always, perspective is key, but should more be expected of Shea? Does it even make sense to place this onus of responsibility upon the shoulders of a player who has never played in anything but a friendly for the Nats? Where should that onus fall? Appropriately managing the future of a player such as Shea is a nearly impossible task for our nation of fledgling soccer developers and fragmented minds, but this is what we have. A man (a boy, really) torn between warring philosophies and his inability to compartmentalize it all. I hope, for Shea's sake, he looks good in a feature role in the Waldo stripes soon. I fear for his psyche if not.

In any case, here are a few cuts of mine on Shea from the past. I think they still hold some level of truth now as we prepare to cut Shea loose on a more important stage than he's yet seen.

From Jan. 10:

Brek Shea is back from his training session in London and is comparing his mindset to that of Clint Dempsey. It's admirable, and Dempsey is enjoying a career year as a Cottager, but soccer hype in the States is a relative term. The soccer media here is decidedly softer than the notably hawkish scribes in tabloid-rich England and on the Continent, where soccer news is devoured like so many delicious nuggets of Belgian chocolate. The rumor mills swirl faster abroad, and I dare say Shea would have trouble being recognized even in the most cosmopolitan of places here. So much of that hype, that push, must come from within. It's a tougher scenario. At best, Shea receives a passing or failing grade from a major media outlet, which in turn spurs vigorous online debate from a notably small subsection of the population. At worst, his performances pass into history almost completely unnoticed. Either way, popular call-in shows and newspapers from suburbia to the inner-city do not care about the fate of Brek Shea.

Indeed, the trouble for Shea could actually be lack of expectation. The perception is changing, but we've come to expect little individually from our Nats as a rule. Using Michael Bradley as the recent litmus, American players have always been long on athletic prowess and short on skill. Naming my top skill guy, Tab Ramos, is a sad indictment. Players like Shea are challenging this paradigm, that Americans are automatons who can run for days but couldn't dribble their way out of an empty airplane hangar. But Shea has been sheathed by his nation's spotty past in the game and a general perception that whatever the USMNT accomplishes, it does so with a team ethic in defiance of the kind of aesthetic that truly makes soccer The Beautiful Game. It has shelved our belief, for however long I can't say, that we are capable as a nation of producing a Messi or a Rooney or even anything close. So Shea's expectations are managed accordingly.

I hope Shea follows Dempsey's lead in a few areas. As a small-town kid from Nacogdoches (which is the very definition of backwoods for those not versed in the Texas countryside), Dempsey has adjusted to life abroad as well as can be expected. He seems not to notice or care that Americans aren't supposed to make defenders look stupid in the Best League in the World. But shouldering thousands of pounds of criticism has never been the purview of the American soccer player. If they fail, they're another case for the trash bin along with scores of other flame-outs. If they succeed, they do so modestly as Dempsey (Fulham), Bradley (Chievo Verona) and Landon Donovan (Everton) have shown in spells with sides abroad. Real Madrid prodigies these are not.

So with that lens, I look at Brek Shea wondering how to properly set his ceiling, where to place the bar. He is not a failure if he doesn't land with a CL side, as we'll all agree, but should he be viewed more critically? Whatever pressure is on him is almost entirely self-inflicted. Managing outward pressure and using it, much as you would create a diamond, can produce some magnificent results. I don't have the answers to these questions, but they are worth kicking around. The more you ask of yourself, the more you reap rewards. The arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann and the establishment of Claudio Reyna's youth program are both proof. Hopefully Shea becomes an extension.

From July 20:

In a sense, it's whatever. Shea and Hyndman will kiss and make up, FCD will go on with its miserable season and Shea will probably perk up in one form or another. He'll hit a hot spurt, score a bucket of goals in a short period of time, earn another call up to Camp Cupcake, generate some positive publicity, flash some of those trademark skills and then fade into the blackness again. And we'll be back in this neighborhood wondering what it's all about and why he is more style than substance. I've seen too much of Shea's antics and too many of his disappearing acts even in the midst of his hot spells to believe otherwise. And thus it shall ever be.

- Will Parchman


UnitedDemon said...

We have to put some onus on him, he's the only true winger this squad has got outside Fabian Johnson, who is most likely our starting left back. We need someone to provide width.

Unknown said...

Meh. All I care about is Shea performing to his capabilities when in a U.S. uniform. Besides Dempsey and Johnson; Shea has been the third player to actually make things happen for the U.S. everytime he puts on the jersey.

To me Shea is one of those players you don't hamstring. Just let the guy go out and play. Let him do what he does best which is give opposing defensive players nightmares for weeks after he skins them alive. Shea is a player that commands respect from an opposing defense when he steps on the field. Shea wins the mental aspect with defensive players before he even touches the ball.

Let the kid continue to grow and the only a player can grow is by making mistakes.

I don't think Shea will start, but he will be an impact sub.

Unknown said...

If he doesn't start then we'd almost surely be playing a very cloggy lineup, no?

dikranovich said...

is a cloggy lineup a bad thing, or a good thing? to me, shea has had his biggest impact for the mens team coming on as a sub, is that not the way everyone else feels also?