FRISCO, Texas – One of Brek Shea’s many tattoos is “Proverbs 17:17.”
However, with the way 2012 has gone, perhaps a more applicable bible verse for Shea is Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters.”
This year, Shea’s fifth as a professional, was supposed to be the one in which the 22-year-old Texan followed up his MLS Best XI season of 2011 with a campaign that vaulted him into the upper echelons of American soccer stars. But much like with his club team, FC Dallas, things haven’t exactly gone as planned.
Through 20 games this season, Shea has three goals and two assists, a far cry from his 11 goals and four assists in 2011 that saw him named as the top player in MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 rankings just 12 months ago.
WATCH: Shea ranked No. 3 in 24 Under 24
“Honestly, I just couldn’t ever get myself into a rhythm,” Shea told MLSsoccer.com about his 2012 his season. “Obviously, you usually start off the season kind of slow and get into a rhythm, but I just never got into one whether I kept leaving or I kept getting injured or suspended. I just never got into a rhythm and to be honest I still don’t feel like I’m in a rhythm.”
While Shea enjoyed a streak of 26 consecutive matches played for FC Dallas between April and September last season, the longest streak he's been able to muster this year is six straight matches.
Things got off to the worst possible start for Shea during the well-documented Olympic qualifying failure for the US Under-23 national team. While the inability to earn a ticket to London was obviously a huge disappointment for Shea, the most underrated aspect of qualifying was the affect it had on his preseason with FC Dallas. US training camps and qualifying matches meant that crucial preseason training sessions with his club team were few and far between.
“I think at the start of the season, Brek was really focused on a lot of different areas,” said FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman of his young star. “The Olympic team, national team, FC Dallas – I think it was hard for him and it would be hard for anyone to put priorities on which one [to focus on]. ... It pulled him in many different directions which would affect a 30-year-old as well as an 18-year-old.”
Some good early season performances, including a sensational 88th-minute game-winner against Montreal seemed to indicate the preseason was just a blip on the radar. However, despite scoring penalty-kick goals in back-to-back games in late April, Shea was hobbled by a turf toe suffered in Vancouver that, coupled with a franchise-record 13-game winless streak, set into motion a disappointing chain of events culminating in an outburst against his coach during a nationally televised game in San Jose.
WATCH: Shea's goal against Montreal
“[Stuff] happens,” Shea said. “Obviously, [this year] hasn’t been what I wanted. Even though I look back and I’m not happy with what happened this year, I’m not mad at myself for what I did. It just happened.”
However, despite all of Shea and his team’s struggles in 2012, the ending to the story has yet to be written.
Fortunes have turned in recent weeks as FC Dallas have lost just once in Shea’s last six starts (they are 2-7-2 without him in the lineup), sitting one point out of the final Western Conference playoff spot after a miracle win over Vancouver last weekend.
Shea's production is also turning around as well, with two assists in his last six games for Dallas and that historic assist on Michael Orozco Fiscal’s game-winning goal for the United States last month in their first-ever win in Mexico.
Just as importantly, a smile is back on the happy-go-lucky player’s face.
“That’s what’s cool about MLS is, if you can get a playoff spot, it’s a whole new season,” Shea said about his resurgent FC Dallas team.
WATCH: Brek Shea, the artist
The fact remains, however, that Shea still has a way to go to reach last year's heights. His performances in recent matches have been marked by long stretches of inactivity coupled with flashes of brilliance that remind everyone of the tall, blonde winger that has terrorized MLS defenses.
So what does Shea need to do to get back into his rhythm?
“I don’t know, that’s kind of the million-dollar question,” Shea said. “If I knew, then everyone would be ‘ballers.”
Daniel Robertson covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com.