For most of this past Friday night’s match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a match-up between the Colorado Rapids and the Vancouver Whitecaps, the proceedings stumbled along glacially. The entire affair yielded a whopping three total shots on target. Probably, somewhere in the stadium’s rafters, the owl who makes its nest up there softly hooted the saddest bird song.
But then a flaxen-haired figure emerged. At the 69th minute, it was time to snip that small rope of spittle that dribbled to the floor – Brek Shea trotted onto the field, subbed in for Cristian Techera. Cue the trumpets.
And true to form, the recent Whitecaps arrival marked his return to the squad as dramatically as he did his arrival. Just 15 minutes into his appearance, Shea broke away to tally the game’s loan goal – a nutmeg, no less, on famous Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard. It served as a sort of poetic mirror image to the April 5 CONCACAF Champions League match vs. Tigres during which he scored his first 'Caps goal, only to sustain a knee injury just two minutes later.
And on Friday night, just like that, newly healthy with man bun and all, Shea instantly flipped the match script. It turned from a paint-drying vacuum of time into a top #PeakMLS storyline: Tim Howard’s would-be victorious return, spoiled by none other than Shea.
Brek Shea’s the hero we don’t deserve – maddening at the worst of times, exhilarating at the best, unpredictable almost always in between, and, shall we say … creative on social media. And it seems like he might acclimate well to life with the Whitecaps after all.
The initial trade from Orlando City had some close watchers (okay, me), worrying for Shea – almost no one in the Orlando world seemed to have gone full Florida Man, so quickly.
It seemed like his natural habitat involved a swamp and/or salt water and some kind of large fish. How would this creature fare in a squad named after a snowy mountaintop?
All that worry, and then the knock – Shea’s knee injury would sideline him from early-season Whitecaps action almost as soon as he showed up. But Team Brek could still hold on to recent flashes of brilliance from the near past.
At Orlando City, he faced similarly frustrating ups and downs due to injury, but when he delivered, he really delivered. Across 46 appearances over two seasons with the Lions, Shea proved instrumental in creating for his teammates – and even manage three goals and six assists himself. Not exactly shabby for a midfielder whose role was typically more defensive in Orlando. (And none of that is to mention, of course, his previous MLS All-Star nod and spot as an MLS MVP finalist in 2011, when he played with FC Dallas, before a two-year sojourn in England. Or his flirtations with the USMNT senior roster.)
And then, there came that 84th minute in Denver, in the middle of a slog which even Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson described thus: “There wasn’t brilliant football played.” Who else in MLS?
But who else would decide to join a production of the Nutcracker with no explanation, warning, or context? Who else would devote his non-soccer, non-fishing time to cultivating a pretty decent abstract expressionist painting career?
Who else could rock harem pants so well? (Who else would make his personal Instagram frustratingly private just before I wrote these sentences celebrating these things?)
It helps that, back in the locker room and on the field, Robinson has given his full vote of confidence. “I firmly believe and have confidence in him,” he said that same night of Shea. “I think he’s a super talent. He’s still young, he’s still got a lot of football ahead of him.”
That’s Brek Shea, and he’s never boring. Frankly, we may not deserve this potent combination of frustration, talent on the field, and personality off it. Vancouver’s lucky to have him back on their side, and for the rest of us glued to social media, we’re lucky his Canadian adventures should ramp up soon.