FRISCO, Texas — The interviews, accolades and international caps are all flowing Brek Shea’s way in 2011, but life wasn’t always smooth sailing for the FC Dallas winger.
Entering MLS at the ripe age of 17, the speedy midfielder acted like a young professional might be expected to upon entering the league: cocky, emotional and anxious to prove himself.
“I was big-headed,” Shea admitted about breaking into MLS. “I think a lot of young kids are. They think they can just come in and play but it’s not that easy. You get here and you realize it and it’s frustrating.”
Training sessions were often a display of youthfulness with Shea tackling teammates and kicking soccer balls into the Frisco sky after making an error.
These moments of frustration never sat well with his head coach, Schellas Hyndman, who remembers punishing the Texas native by making him run laps around the training pitch, and on various occasions kicking him out of practice after taking over the team in the summer of 2008.
“He’d make a mistake and kick the ball and I’d say, ‘Brek, come on, that’s a card in the game,’” Hyndman recalled. “But he would be upset about it, so then you have to say, ‘The words aren’t getting through, so what’s the next step? Some type of punishment. Take a jog around the field, relax,’ and he’d walk around the field bitching the whole time and then he’d come back still angry.”
The soft-spoken 21-year-old also recalls Hyndman’s tactics and admits they’ve helped him tremendously.
“Having to come into an environment like this where you’re not the best, you’re not going to be starting every game – you have to earn it,” Shea said. “It definitely takes a minute to learn … and once I learned that, I think it definitely helped me.”
Those lessons from Hyndman have since paid off for Shea, who has exploded onto the domestic and international soccer scene during the 2011 campaign.
So far this season, he has racked up 10 goals – including five game-winners – and three assists, proving an intimidating on-field presence, while garnering an ever-increasing role with the US national team.
Behind this breakout season is Hyndman, the coach who not only attempted to recruit Shea to SMU during his 24-year tenure at the Dallas-based university, but also saw a raw ability that needed a lot of shaping.
“I was looking at Brek and I was going, ‘Gee, this guy has some really good technique but he’s trying to do too much,’” recalled Hyndman, who took over at FC Dallas six months after Shea was drafted. “He’s trying to beat two guys, trying to overdo it, and I was going, ‘I don’t know, but this guy has some growing to do.’
“There were times when I’m looking at him and thought maybe he would have done better going to college for a year, maturing, playing more because he wasn’t getting a lot of playing time.”
There was no plan for developing Shea but by “putting in the time” on the training field, as Hyndman puts it, the rising winger worked his way into the team’s rotation and in May of 2010 tallied his first career goal – a right-footed shot against Philadelphia that accurately displayed his star-power ability.
Since that first goal, Shea has scored 14 more in 49 games and displayed a superb vision of the field from the left flank delivering quality crosses in abundant numbers for 13 career assists.
In 2011, the Shea-highlight reel has no shortage of jaw-dropping moments either. From collecting two assists with a minute plus stoppage time remaining in FC Dallas’ 3-2 come-from-behind-win against Sporting Kansas City, to dribbling through the Toronto FC defense in July and launching a 30-yard game-winning goal by Stefan Frei.
“He got the ball in the midfield, beat a defender, ran by him, had the courage to look up and say, ‘I’m going to win this game,’” remembered Hyndman about the Toronto match. "I mean, it was an unbelievable strike."
But Shea isn’t satisfied with the strides he’s made and the talent he’s put on display.
“I want to do more than what I’ve done,” Shea said, “and I want to get more caps and hopefully try and get regular call-ups [to the US national team] and hopefully we can make it to the [MLS] Cup again.”
Added Hyndman: “Brek’s going to get to the point where you look at him and say, ‘God, he makes things look so easy,’ and I see that as the future for him.”