PHILADELPHIA — Brek Shea's mission Wednesday night wasn't to wow the US national team. It was simply to do what he does best: Just be Brek.
Shea is easily the most laid-back superstar Major League Soccer has seen in, oh, well, forget it. Here’s the deal, dude: Shea has ridden a friendly, soft-spoken demeanor and very loud skills right into the hearts of MLS fans, and now perhaps into a very real shot as part of the future of the US team.
Shea grabbed an assist on the Americans’ lone goal of the 1-1 draw against Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field on Wednesday, skirting past the Mexican defense to the touch line before his pitch-perfect pass fell to the foot of a wide-open Robbie Rogers.
That was the first highlight moment of what could become a delightfully long reel for the FC Dallas star, who has remained quintessentially Shea despite his recent success: humble and happy, and always playing it cool.
“The more you play, the more confidence you get, and the more composure you get on the ball,” Shea said. “Over time, it just comes.”
Shea came on in the 60th minute for holding midfielder Jermaine Jones and instantly injected some much-needed enthusiasm into the mix. He is unmistakable even from afar in this group because of his looks (he’s the only 6-foot-3 player sporting a dyed streak that parts a sea of blonde hair, imagine that), but he also stuck out as the best one-on-one threat the Americans had on a night when they needed all the chances they could get.
“In our league, if he’s not the best then he’s one of the best at just getting the ball, going at people and putting them under pressure,” midfielder Landon Donovan said. “As a defender, it’s a nightmare to defend against him.
“As far as his attacking qualities,” Donovan added, “he showed tonight he’s got the makings of a really good player.”
The cap was just the third in the budding international career for Shea, who largely flopped during his debut last fall against Colombia at PPL Park. On Wednesday he was far more dynamic, aggressive and, most importantly, comfortable with his game and what he can bring to the team.
“Last time I was excited, nervous, and it was fast compared to the soccer I had been playing,” he said. “Tonight I kinda just got in there, and did what I like to do.”
US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann praised not only Shea’s play but his rapid acclimation to the US group this time around, and the ease with which he fit into the US team.
“He fit right in there, it was really nice to see him,” Klinsmann said. “I knew we can bring him on anytime, we had that in the back of our minds. We knew some players had to be changed so we could get fresh legs in there, and he was on the top of our list.
“It was fun to watch him.”