Why Brek Shea’s Transfer to Stoke City is a Catch-22 For American Soccer Fans

Brek Shea was the face of FC Dallas the past two seasons, but now — pending international clearance — he will play for Stoke City.  I’m glad for Shea.  It’s always good to see American players get a shot in the world’s top league.  But since I just bought an FC Dallas season ticket a few weeks ago, this is not welcome news.

I first saw Shea play in person in 2010, the season he made his first professional start and really came into his own for FC Dallas.  He almost immediately caught my eye as a special player.  It wasn’t just the flashy shock of ultra blonde hair.  He hustled hard and wasn’t afraid to run with the ball at opponents.  He had height, strength, speed, and all-important feistiness.  He could scoot around the edges and get passes across the box or get shots off when other players would have lost possession.  He spent that 2010 season under the radar and I shared FC Dallas fans’ pride of recognizing potential that the wider world hadn’t fully noticed yet.

By the start of 2011, the cat was out of the bag with Shea and opponents started marking him tightly.  It was a tougher season for him (and FC Dallas), yet he was still a standout and a finalist for the league’s MVP.  Buzz began building about him.  In the offseason, he got to train for a few weeks at Arsenal.  FC Dallas wisely renewed his contract through 2015.  By the start of last season, the media spotlight on Shea was blinding.  Even in Dallas he was becoming a household name (okay, still mostly just among us soccer nerds).  US National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann jumped on board the Brek train too, granting Shea several consecutive caps.

Then the 2012 MLS season got under way and Shea fizzled on field.  A turf toe injury sidelined him for several weeks.  I actually observed him up close as he was nearing recovery from that injury when he participated in demonstration drills run by FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman at Hyndman’s annual clinic for local coaches.  I was impressed and surprised that Shea turned up for the demo – something he certainly wasn’t obligated to do on such a hot May afternoon.  The drills included a mix of academy players and FC Dallas reserve players, but Shea played as hard as if he were trying to earn a starting spot.  Afterwards he affably hung around to chat with coaches and pose for photos.  He certainly didn’t appear too overwhelmed by stardom that day.

Shea continued struggling with injuries throughout 2012, but even when he was in the lineup he couldn’t recover his near-MVP form from 2011.  Fans grumbled impatiently.  Brek and Hyndman got into a spat on NBC when Hyndman benched him late during a contentious match at San Jose.  Shea the wonder boy suddenly seemed mentally and physically drained.

Now it looks like the business side of soccer has reared its necessary and sometimes ugly head with Dallas apparently eager to cash in on Stoke City’s interest in the 22-year-old Shea.  Shea was a rare rising star for Dallas, a real potential franchise player.  I had a feeling it would just be a matter of time before a bigger club snatched him up – Dallas is too small a club to retain stars for very long.  The only real surprise is why now?  Shea had such a dismal 2012 MLS season that I was confident he would be in Dallas at least through 2013.  I was really looking forward to this being a comeback season for Brek.

I should have been suspicious when defender Zach Loyd began featuring a bit more than Shea in FC Dallas’ promotional efforts toward the end of last season.  Considering that and the rift between Hyndman and Shea, the writing has likely been on the wall for several months.  I wish Dallas would use the Stoke cash they get for Shea on a replacement star, someone for season ticket holders like myself to get excited about.  But I won’t hold my breath.

It’s a catch-22 for American soccer fans when deals like this come along.  On one hand, you want to see U.S. players get opportunities in the world’s top league – it’s great for their development, enhances our national team, and improves American soccer’s reputation.  On the other hand it highlights where MLS falls in the pecking order of the world’s soccer leagues.  It seems difficult enough (particularly in a market like Dallas) to get fans to support MLS teams that actually have an American star or two, much less when those stars get shipped to more prestigious European leagues.

I wish Shea all the best at Stoke City.  This FC Dallas fan will definitely miss him.

16 thoughts on “Why Brek Shea’s Transfer to Stoke City is a Catch-22 For American Soccer Fans”

  1. I like the piece, but I disagree with the growing notion that the MLS should be hesitant of selling their stars. Star power is always relative to each league. If the MLS wants to be viewed near the same plane as the Prem, la liga or the bundesliga (pardon my spelling on that one), the quality of the run of the mill player needs to improve. Superstars don’t make the league great as much as the majority of strong squad players do.

  2. I agree 100%. I am planning on going to the FC Dallas-LA Galaxy game in April and was really looking forward to seeing Shea in person.

  3. It’s just the reality…I am Croatian so I obviously follow the Croatian league and this happens every year, you see the top 4-5 players go abroad each year and then the Croatian clubs cannot realistically compete in Champions League and Europa League. A guy like Modric wasn’t going to stay in Croatia until his mid-20s. Outside of the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, and the rich eastern European leagues (Russia, Ukraine), most of the leagues in Europe are simply feeder leagues. Welcome to Modern Football, where only 6-7 clubs can realistically win the CL.

    Of course the MLS is a little different, it has more money than most small European leagues and better resources to keep its players, but I think MLS fans have to accept that talented young American players will go to Europe if they have a chance and I don’t think the MLS officials should prevent it from happening.

    As for Shea, he needs to get his head out of his ass. The guy has talent but seemed to have some discipline problems along with his injuries the past year.

    1. “As for Shea, he needs to get his head out of his ass. The guy has talent but seemed to have some discipline problems along with his injuries the past year.”

      If he doesn’t, he won’t get anything but splinters in his ass. Pulis wouldn’t coddle his own Mom.

      1. Bit harsh – TPs mum (and dad) passed away in recent years, the guy drove home to be there with her as it happened, spent the day with his family then drove back to oversea the team getting to the ground at half time (which was losing) and he spoke to them and they came out and won for him. True story.

        Pulis has a reputation for getting the best from troubled players (the dogs home he calls it), and giving them new life – Etherington, Pennant, Fuller, Lawrence etc – if they throw that chance away they dont last long (Beattie, Pennant etc).

        I’m hoping for great things from Shea, looks an exciting buy.

        As for some of the other comments on MLS etc, its pretty much the same story for any middle to lower team in the EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga – if any of your players shine the top 5-6 teams just take them!

  4. It’s a testament to the MLS that each year players are going to Europe.

    The minute that stops happening is a very bad sign for the US.

  5. Great article. I agree. Glad for Brek but will be disheartened if he is benched like Bradley was when joining Villa a while back. Thankfully, Bradley made a successful jump to Italy. Here is hoping that Brek has great success in the EPL translating to great success on the USMNT.

  6. I hear you. I can imagine it being disheartening to watch a young player from the local team you support leaving…..especially when it isn’t entirely clear if the transfer fee is being plowed back into the club somehow.

    From a USMNT perspective, I dont’ worry too much. If Shea is supposed to be our next great winger, then he’ll get plenty of time. If he can’t force his way into the starting lineup, then he was probably never much more than a fringe player to begin with.

    For American soccer, it’s good that our players are going overseas. I’d love it if they could stay here, but for that to happen the salaries need to increase. I know there’s something to be said for challenging yourself, but I think it’s mostly about salaries. Look at Mexico….they pay good salaries and they keep most of their players at home….and they’re perfectly competitive at the international level.

  7. brek shea did the right thing. he needs to test himself in a bigger league.

    the MLS needs to be patient. it’s fate is tied to the success of the USMNT. keeping american talents won’t make the league more popular with mainstream america… for now.

  8. I hope you were happy with the Hassli and cooper acquisitions…I am a Juve supporter and MLS is quite a step down for me…but I live in Dallas and am actually thinking of going to see some games this coming year

    1. With that type of attitude, stay at home.

      I’m a fan of the Prem, but I’m a soccer fan first. The fact that we have a pro team in Dallas that is ignored by local EuroSnobs (those who think that anything other than Euro Soccer isn’t worth watching) is pretty disheartening.

  9. I met Brek on the sidelines of The Disney Classic pre-season training in Orlando Florida 2 years ago. He also cought my eye on how he played, hustling, moving to the ball and not waiting,working with his team mates, it was a great experience for me to meet him. I talked to him after teh game and he was so down to earth, he evn thanked me for talking with him. Great person.
    Brek is a great player, and he needed to go to Europe to so he can perfect his game. Big fan of his and wishing him all the best the he can get to make him an even better player. Good luck to you Brek!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *