HOUSTON (AP) – Brek Shea is starting to lose it.
No, not his mind--though if wouldn't be a far-fetched question after watching him get into it with FC Dallas head coach and martial arts expert Schellas Hyndman on Wednesday night. After being subbed out during Dallas' 2-1 loss to San Jose , Shea argued with Hyndman and caused a scene that led teammate and player-coach Daniel Hernandez call him out after the match.
No, what Shea is losing by the week, both with disappointing play and questionable decision-making, is his place as one of American soccer brightest young stars. What was chalked up to fatigue last fall, and written off as a slump, has turned into a full-year funk. Shea hasn't had a truly memorable performance in a year for either FC Dallas or the US national team, and his tantrum on Wednesday night only served to magnify the attention on a player who is clearly going through a tough moment in his career.
It was only eight months ago that Shea was the subject of transfer rumors and talk of a potential big-money transfer. He went to train with Arsenal during the winter break and his name began popping up in foreign rumor mills.
Even then Shea was already in slump mode. From last fall through the end of the season, he just wasn't playing well. He spent time with the senior US national team, and played on the US Under-23 national team that failed to qualify for the Olympics . In neither instance did Shea really stand out or look like the player who a year ago was tearing up MLS and appearing every bit like a potential big-money transfer target.
If the disappointment of failing to qualify for the Olympics, and his continued struggles with the senior national team, weren't enough, Shea has endured a nightmare 2012 with FC Dallas, which is sitting in last place in the Western Conference. A year earlier, Shea took charge of a Dallas side struggling without injured former MLS MVP David Ferreira and led it to a strong summer run that helped the team reach the playoffs.
This year, there has been no Super Brek to the rescue. Instead, he has been struggling right alongside the rest of FC Dallas, watching his transfer value diminish and the buzz surrounding his once skyrocketing career fade.
You could understand it if he is feeling frustrated, watching himself go from transfer target to European afterthought.
It can't help to see Houston's Geoff Cameron leapfrog him on the list of potential European-bound national team players in MLS. On the same day MLS and Stoke City was agreeing on a $2.5 million transfer for Cameron, Shea was reaching his boiling point after being subbed out of a game where he spent 64 minutes miscast as a forward.
Was Shea's breakdown a choreographed attempt to hasten his departure from FC Dallas, or was it just a 22-year-old kid losing his cool as he watched his coach pull him out of a match the team was losing?
Whatever the reason, there is no excusing his behavior and as much as you want to write it off to a temporary lapse, we are also talking about a player who just a month ago was suspended for intentionally kicking a ball at an assistant referee.
That incident led to a three-match suspension. Perhaps more dramatically, US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann left Shea off the national team's roster for its run of friendlies and World Cup qualifiers in late May and early June. Klinsmann stated at the time that he took Shea off to send him a message that he needed to not only play better, but behave better.
Apparently that message wasn't heard. Instead, we are left with a messy situation in Dallas, where Hyndman will have little choice but to discipline Shea, either with a suspension or benching, or both. Suggestions that Dallas might be forced to trade or sell the unhappy star seem to be premature; especially considering his value is as low as it has been in two years.
No, Dallas will have to stick with the young and temperamental prospect for a while. They signed him to a contract extension a little more than a year ago and as bad as his exchange with Hyndman looked, Dallas can't just get rid of the face of the franchise.
It is going to be up to Shea to grow up and compose himself. Not just because Klinsmann and Dallas want him to, but because European clubs aren't likely to be impressed by immature behavior, never mind the very teammates who by now must be starting to get fed up with the recent prima donna act.
Shea isn't the first young player to go through tough times, and he shouldn't be written off too quickly for struggling to deal with disappointment and the increased expectations surrounding him. He will have his chance to rebound and re-establish himself as the star he seemed destined to be just a year ago, but only if he gets his head straight realize that nothing is owed to him.
Here is a look at this weekend's must-watch matches:
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION
The surging Union have won four of their past five league matches under interim head coach John Hackworth, but the Red Bulls should offer their toughest test in recent weeks. Thierry Henry, Sebastien LeToux and Kenny Cooper form a dangerous trio that will seriously test a Union defense that has been playing excellently since converted midfielder Amobi Okugo made the switch to centerback.
The Red Bulls could have tired legs after Wednesday's brutally hot conditions in their win against Chicago. The Union had a friendly vs. Aston Villa on Wednesday (which they lost 1-0) but none of Philadelphia's starters played more than 45 minutes.
LA GALAXY vs. CHIVAS USA
The streaking Galaxy have opened up some distance on the trailing pack for the fifth and final playoff spot in the West, and are in range of fourth-place Vancouver. But, Chivas USA has three games in hand on LA and could close to within a point of their neighbors with a win in the latest installment of the 'SuperClasico'.
Early mistakes cost the Galaxy against Vancouver on Wednesday, but the team's late rally to come back and earn a point should give them some momentum heading into Saturday. The Goats have been defending well, but with the offense still sputtering, they will be hard pressed to knock off a resurgent Galaxy side.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The Whitecaps watched new midfielder Barry Robson enjoy an outstanding match against the Galaxy on Wednesday, and with Kenny Miller on his way, Vancouver is shaping up to be a strong candidate to hold onto a playoff spot in the West. Whether they can realistically challenge for a top spot in the West will be seen this weekend when they take on first-place San Jose.
The Earthquakes received a scare on Wednesday, watching FC Dallas come within a missed stoppage-time penalty of a two-goal comeback in the final minutes. San Jose posted yet another victory and increased their lead atop the West to seven matches. Look for Chris Wondolowski to cause problems for a Vancouver defense that has looked far more vulnerable in recent weeks.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. COLORADO RAPIDS
Two teams coming off recent rough results. Real Salt Lake will take the field for the first time since the 5-0 humbling against San Jose, a loss that caused head coach Jason Kreis to question his team publicly. They take on a Rapids squad that not only blew a lead at home in handing FC Dallas their first win in months, but also managed to blow a lead in a loss to Toronto FC on Wednesday.
RSL should be able to rebound from the Earthquakes loss, though not having Kyle Beckerman because of suspension will hurt. The Rapids are a tougher one to figure out. They have the talent to be much better than they are performing, but they have posted some awful recent results. If Oscar Pareja doesn't sort that out soon, the Rapids could fall completely out of the playoff picture.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Sporting KC showed heart in keeping things close in Wednesday's loss to Houston. They played in Houston for a half down a man and actually made things difficult for the Dynamo attack. It's a credit to just how well Sporting KC's defense has been playing lately.
New England has a good enough defense to make things tough for KC, but the Revs have struggled on the road all season. Lee Nguyen's recent hot form and the return to health of captain Shalrie Joseph should help New England give Sporting KC a good test at Livestrong Sporting Park.