Today's topics: Brek Shea and MLS at the halfway marker

Brek Shea last Saturday, after a big, dominant night in FC Dallas' 2-0 win over Columbus.

I’m working today on an MLS mid-season piece, with halfway point selections for all those fancy awards. I’m thinking Rookie of the Year will be the real toughie this season. At this point last year you couldn’t swing a bag of practice balls without hitting a legit Rookie of the Year candidate. This year, it’s going to be hard call for a very different reason … the relative lack of good options.

Meanwhile, for the blog, I’ll leave you with this:

I spoke to Brek Shea after last week’s game in Dallas, when he scored yet again. If you’re counting, that’s eight. And you should be counting, because Shea now shares the league lead with Landon Donovan, Charlie Davies and Thierry Henry. The totals for Davies and Donovan include penalty kicks; Shea's sum does not.

But it’s not just the goals, it’s what he’s doing overall in the run of play, brimming with confidence all the while. And teammates certainly notice, so they want to get the ball to Shea as much as possible. He sees that, appreciates it, and that feeds the cycle, further supplying the stores of confidence.

No one in MLS is more dominant on the left side at the moment. It’s not even close. His ability to set up teammates with a balanced arsenal of crossing and cutting inside to break down defenses is drawing increasing attention from defenses, which opens gaps elsewhere.

Shea had some interesting things to say about matters beyond his control. So interesting, in fact, that you should definitely read on …

Shea wasn’t the least bit put out by the latest national team selections. As Bob Bradley’s team struggled at times to hit for Gold Cup goals, Shea was using those long legs to blow by MLS defenders and launch his personal four-game scoring streak. (One more and he’ll match Landon Donovan’s season-high of five games.) So, plenty of supporters wondered why Shea wasn’t on the national team.

Shea wasn’t wondering.

“I know I wasn’t playing very well when he picked that team, so I didn’t deserve to be picked,” Shea told me, almost like he was surprised at the question.   

Shea also knows he wasn’t at his best during last year’s national team debut. He didn’t say so, but I can tell you that the timing was unfortunate for him. Shea had recently gotten a red card (and subsequent suspension) and then temporarily lost his place in the lineup. When called in, Shea wasn’t even starting for FC Dallas. So all that confidence mentioned above … not so much when he got that first cap. And it showed.

Shea, 21, recently signed a new five-year deal. I asked if he was feeling more settled about things for it?  He essentially shrugged and said he just didn’t think about those things. Since he’s a little bit of a free spirit – you get the feeling that he’s really a hippie at heart, born about 30 years too late – I found that pretty easy to believe.

(By the way, I know a lot of fans don't like Shea. It's the hair. It's different. That bothers some people. But it probably bothers them because it strikes them as some young pistol calling attention to himself.  Maybe so. Or maybe, as I said, it's just his bohemian nature showing through. Check this out ... maybe you'll see things a different way.)  

That new contract doesn’t mean he won’t go play overseas at some point – it just makes MLS and FC Dallas a bigger player in the process. Tying up his rights means the league and the club would benefit from any purchase by a European team – and believe me, the opportunities are coming if Shea keeps moving in this direction.

He said playing in Europe is something every player has kicking around somewhere in the grey matter. League of choice? Shea said he watches all the big ones and but hasn’t thought about it enough to develop any preferences. For now, he said he’s happy here and focused on getting better, content to let his agent handle the rest.

Since he just bought a house not too far away, I found that pretty easy to swallow, too.

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