Just three days after nightmare match, Shea finds redemption with winning goal

Brek Shea

Photo by ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Brek Shea admitted he wanted to curb his happiness after scoring the winning goal against Costa Rica on Tuesday, but he still could not stop himself from expressing just how much it meant to him to find the back of the net.

Just three days after enduring a terrible performance in a 4-1 victory over Cuba that had many fans and pundits lambasting, Shea came through in a big way for the U.S. Men’s National Team by scoring a late winner in a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in their Gold Cup group stage finale at Rentschler Field on Tuesday night.

The 81st-minute goal was Shea’s first on the international level and saw the U.S. achieve their goal of finishing first in Group C, but it also served as a source of redemption for a player who had heard his share of criticism in recent weeks and months.

“It just feels good because a lot of people talk a lot of smack,” said Shea. “I can’t get too high off of this, I can’t get too low off the last game. This is just one game and one little thing. There’s a lot of games left in this tournament and a lot of soccer to be played in my career.”

The 23-year-old Shea scored his first U.S. goal just five minutes into his substitute cameo against the Ticos. He had replaced Jose Torres out on the left flank and was instructed by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to “make his runs” and “try to be dangerous”, things he did to great effect on a lightning-fast counter attack that originated from a Sean Johnson save off a corner kick and culminated with Shea’s strike from approximately 15 yards out.

“It’s not hard to miss that hair streaking down the other side of the field,” said Landon Donovan, who assisted on Shea’s goal. “I just wanted to put it in a good spot for him so he could take a touch. After the other day, he felt bad about his performance and you could tell in the reaction by all of us how happy we were for him that he got that goal and got the win for us.”

Happy might be an understatement. The U.S. bench erupted into pure bliss after seeing Shea’s shot beat Costa Rica goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton, knowing full well the hardships that Shea has recently endured at both the international and club levels.

Still, Klinsmann was keen to point out during his postgame press conference that it is normal for young players like Shea to go through ups and downs in their careers and stated that giving them opportunities when possible is key in their development regardless of the mistakes they make.

“You’ve got to build them,” said Klinsmann, who was being questioned aplenty by fans and media when Shea took off his warmups and walked over to midfield to check into the game. “Keep on building them, giving them opportunities whenever possible and make them understand that they only get better through a lot of work.”

In search of a goal, Klinsmann turned to Shea late in Tuesday’s match despite his forgettable outing against Cuba. Shea endured a rough 45-minute performance that included a plethora of turnovers and poor touches that stifled the U.S. attack in that game, and few believed that he would be used again in the Gold Cup.

Shea’s performance Tuesday surely changed all that. Yes, it may have been just one game, but it could be what sparks a fine run of form for Shea, who has learned now more than ever to take things in stride.

“It’s soccer. You have up days and down days and I’ve had a lot of down days lately,” said Shea. “Today was good for me. It puts all that (criticism) behind, so it doesn’t matter.”

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24 Responses to Just three days after nightmare match, Shea finds redemption with winning goal

  1. mattchew says:

    When you watch the replay of the goal sequence there is this brief second where you can see Brek’s speed burst to another level that gave him the extra second for the nice first touch….kudos to him for the goal….but double kudos to Klinsmann once again for making the correct, and in this case, brave substitution.

    • TomG says:

      Definitely the correct sub. I don’t see any bravery, unless you think JK reads the soccer forums. To me, Shea is, and has always been, the classic change of pace substitution guy. Shea was poor against Cuba, but so what? JK knows that Shea is very capable of poor outings but also can change the game with his pace and creativity. Brek is equally capable of turning in another stinker next match but that doesn’t change anything. He is the same player he’s always been. I see what you mean by calling it brave in perspective of what we read here, but I can’t imagine it really having any place in JK’s world, do you?

      • peterprinciple says:

        Nonsense. Shea is a young developing player that at current is best as a substitute on the national level. After the Cuba game, considering Torres having a decent match it was somewhat brave to go back to him. Of course JK probably knew he was sending Shea away before the knockouts so this was a last chance. Wow. I like the player and hope he develops that crucial last touch he lacks. He even let the keeper get a piece of this goal- and they dont come much easier against a team like Costa Rica than that.

        • TomG says:

          You just said nonsense then agreed with me.

          • peterprinciple says:

            Let me clarify then. I think Shea Is a potential national team starter. It seems to me you think this sub role will be what he is. Further I think it was brave to use this player after this player’s most recent performance and as a substitute for the team’s most dangerous player up to that point (Torres).

            Otherwise, I suppose we do agree about what he is now as a 23 year old. It still was brave to use him last night.

    • Dennis says:

      Like I said before, what Shea does well, he does well and when it works, like this time, he looks good. When what he does well isn’t working, like in the Cuba game, he looks terrible. If/when he develops tools that allow him to exercise more than the option of speed and strength, he will be a much better player. Until that time, he can probably be used most effectively as a late game option to run at tired defenders, but not so much as a guy you can count on to help the team in a coordinated attack throughout the match. He can learn and improve and I hope he will.

  2. TomG says:

    Not really a huge shock, IMO. People keep trying to make him out as either a complete disaster or the next great thing, when he is neither. He is a physically gifted, creative, aggressive, technically deficient player who is alternately brilliant or frustrating. He can muck up the works of your quick pa$$ing attack with his poor touch, but can also be a great guy to insert when you need to change the pace and mix things up. He’s a bigger, not quite as fast, lesser version of Walcott, Lennon, Gervinho, etc. Sometimes his technique can’t catch up to his pace, but when it does, he’s very dangerous and gives you qualities that are hard to find and hard to match up against. Great balls by LD and Corona, BTW. As tough as he is to watch for some stretches, he is a potentially useful bench guy for the A team because of those qualities that really aren’t present anywhere else in the pool.

    • ThaDeuce says:

      I think when he isn’t coming back from an injury and is in form he is better than you describe.

      • TomG says:

        How so?

        • jay nt says:

          watch dallas a couple seasons ago…when ferreira was out

          he was riding a huge wave of confidence and his play showed it much more consistently

          • WK says:

            Yah, anybody that watched MLS remembers that stretch. Hopefully this game and the rest of the tourney is just what he needs to get back on track and ready to do work in eng-er-land.

          • TomG says:

            None of what you said addresses my evaluation of Shea. I said he has great physical tools and creativity but lacks technical skill. You didn’t address any of those areas.

  3. Brian says:

    happy for Shea! hopefully this gives him that mental boost to be more consistent. but seriously WHAT A BALL BY DONOVAN.

  4. Falls City Outlaw says:

    And that p@ss is exactly why we want Landon on the field.

    • biff says:

      yep, was world cl@ss and only one player in the US pool could have made that pass.

    • Dennis says:

      Yes, I think Costa Rica’s strategy of pressuring the US midfield frustrated the US attack. Hence, Donavon, Wondo and Gomez, who received little service, were scarcely visible for long stretches. The wing play from the US also was not that impressive, except for a few runs by Beasley, in fact it was largely ineffective. I was surprised that it took the US so long to successfully use a long ball for Donavon to run onto. I was watching in a bar, was it Orozco who hit the long ball to Donavon?

  5. biff says:

    * “It just feels good because a lot of people talk a lot of smack,” said Shea.

    No, Brek. Nobody was talking smack. We were talking truth. Your game was a nightmare against Cuba, one of the worst for a USMNT player in recent memory.

    ** “This is just one game and one little thing. There’s a lot of games left in this tournament and a lot of soccer to be played in my career.”

    Very true, Brek. Maybe you should start focusing more, such as 24/7, on improving your game rather than getting angry when fans vent frustration at you when you for having yet another in a long line of cr*p performances like against Cuba.

    By the way, great goal last night and am happy for you. Please make us proud when you return to Stoke. We will all be cheering if you do well in England. And get your game together for WC 2014 next summer in Brazil. Would love to see you there, but only if you can prove you are good enough on a regular basis and not just once in a blue moon. And, pleez, no more silly photos of you in the locker room holding a pigs head. Better ways to spend you time–like working on improving your game.

    • Matt C says:

      Stick in Biff!!

    • away goals says:

      Umm yeah lots of people were talking smack. Plenty of people were going the oft-taken route of demanding he never wear the jersey again.

      Because if there’s one thing comment sections have learned from beasley, eddie, et al it’s that we should make grand proclamations about the future contributions of our player pool.

      Also, you can’t claim nobody’s talking smack just before launching into a lecture implying the guy isn’t working to improve his game. God forbid a 23 year old kid enjoy himself every once in a while.

  6. DC Josh says:

    Props to Shea, he got it done when the pressure was on. BTW – a brilliant pass by Donovan.

  7. Josh D says:

    “there’s a lot of games still left in the tournament”

    A hint that he’s staying with the team? Or that Klinsi hasn’t told him yet?

  8. blokhin says:

    we saw “good Shea” last night, the same game changing sub performance as vs Mexico in 2011 and 2012. The problem has been the “mediocre” Shea that has shown up as a starter over the past two years, to say nothing of “mercilessly awful” Shea vs Cuba…

    the USMNT is desperate for wingers so he’ll continue to get looks, but he’s gotta step up the 75-80% of games when he is a non-factor to be a EPL-level and a shoo-in USMNT starter

  9. Raymon says:

    He’s gonna be released by JK so he can play the Texas friendlies in his Stoke kit (vs. FCD and Houston) next week. JK has repeatedly said how important it is for Brek to get minutes in his club, and with his club situation, and a chance to play before a Lone Star home crowd, it’s a no brainer.