[INTERVIEW] In his third pro season and following two seasons marred by knee surgeries, former U.S. U-20 midfielder Brek Shea has emerged as formidable part of the FC Dallas attack. The native of College Station, Texas, has started 20 of 21 games and is among the team leaders with five goals and four assists. The 20-year-old Shea discusses how he overcame his injury setbacks and why FC Dallas has done so well this season. ...
SOCCER AMERICA: This is your third pro season and you’ve earned a starting role on one of the league’s best teams. How does this year compare to your first two in MLS?
BREK SHEA:It’s definitely been a lot more fun for me. The last years have been frustrating. I had a couple of knee surgeries and couldn’t play consistently. This year, Coach [Schellas Hyndman] has kept starting me, and each time I play I get more confidence. He wants me to play more and more like myself and to use my ability.
SA: Not many players have to go through extensive rehab at a young age. Was that difficult psychologically as well as physically?
SHEA: The hardest part was just getting your body ready to play again, getting your touch back. As far as being hurt, just not being able to play was the worst, because I’d never been injured like that at the end of my rookie year. I just had to get used to it and accept it, be positive and take advantage of the situations I had.
SA: The team has been taking advantage of a lot of situations this year to either win close games or at least come out with a tie. Were the players confident that finishing strongly last year would carry over to this season?
SHEA: We definitely ended the season with a bang last year. It was unfortunate not to make the playoffs but this year everyone came in expecting to start the same way we finished. We didn’t start the way we wanted to but we’re a hard team to beat. We’ve only lost twice this year. Everyone believes in everyone else. It’s pretty cool.
SA: Two losses in 23 matches is a remarkable record. How have you been able to do it?
SHEA: We all fight for each other and we’re together off the field. In the past it wasn’t that way, we’d play the games or train and it would be over. Here, if Jair [Benitez] makes a run, I’m going to cover for him because he’s my teammate. It’s like that all over the field.
SA: How much of this is due to Hyndman’s coaching? How has he changed the team since he took over in the middle of the 2009 season?
SHEA: Definitely it’s because of Schellas. Since I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of changes in personnel, and he finally found the personnel he likes, and it definitely shows. Everyone has bought into what he wants.
SA: There’s a strong Hispanic influence on this team. As a tall, blond Texan, how do you manage to fit in?
SHEA:You have to know Spanish to play on this team. I can’t speak it but I can understand it.
SA: With Benitez and Heath Pearce, FCD has two of the better outside backs in MLS. What has Pearce brought to the team since he came over from Germany last year?
SHEA: His experience playing in Europe and with the national team. People ask him for advice from every position, because he’s played left back, right back, left mid, right mid. He’s been there and seen the best, so a lot of people go to him for advice.
Maybe teams know about Heath, but on the left we have Jair, who I think not a lot of teams know about. He’s one of the most underrated players. He’s not an easy defender to beat and he attacks.
SA: Do you think opponents regard FC Dallas as a serious contender for the title or can you still sneak up on teams?
SHEA: I still think we surprise some teams with some of the things we have. Jeff [Cunningham] is our leading goalscorer, but we have so many guys who can score at any moment in our front six, and on free kicks, in our back line. Teams look out for us now but I think they get surprised when the game actually starts.
SA: You played for the U.S. U-20s at the world championships in Egypt last year. Has there been any contact from U.S. Soccer about playing at the next level?
SHEA:Obviously I want to play for the national team. When the U-23s start up hopefully I'll get a call and then maybe later for the national team.