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Brek Shea needs a rest

Anyone who saw Brek Shea right after FC Dallas drafted him second overall in the 2008 MLS Super Draft knew he had all the makings of a star. Not only did the College Station native have good size at 6-foot-3 but he also had great pace, physical skills and a clear competitive fire that would allow him to not only thrive in Major League Soccer but possibly with the US national team and maybe abroad in the future.

So, when Shea broke out for five goals and four assists in 2010, many knew it was only the tip of the iceberg for the young Texan. In 2011, he led FCD with 11 goals, was an MLS All-Star and also saw his star rise on the USNT front with the hiring of new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

All in all, 2011 was a great year. But there was one thing about Shea this year that has to be noted. As great as he was in the first half of the ’11 MLS season, he seemed to disappear down the stretch and leading into the playoffs. Thanks to a run to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and in the CONCACAF Champions League, Dallas played 14 more games than they did in all of 2010, when they finished the year in MLS Cup.

FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman fielded his same first 11 for many of these games in these other competitions and down the stretch, the considerable toll of all those minutes, nicks, bruises and even travel started to show. Dallas limped to the end of the regular season, crashed out of the CCL and whimpered into the playoffs.

Consider the fact that while his teammates were getting some much-needed time off, more often than not, Shea was not as he was being called in for USNT matches by Klinsmann. In fact, on one such occasion, Hyndman didn’t have Shea available for a starting role in an October match at Chicago, one where FCD ended up clinching a second straight playoff spot, because Shea had started and played the first half for the US the night before in an international friendly.

Shea was one of those players showing a great deal of fatigue in the second half. But it wasn't just physical for this talented 21-year-old. Hyndman lamented the fact that much of Brek’s fatigue was of the mental variety and while he did have a goal against Vancouver late in the regular season, prior to that one he hadn’t scored in six league games.

In the season-ending loss to New York in the wild card round of the MLS Playoffs, Shea was basically a non-factor for the entire 90 minutes. Maybe a good deal of the credit for that performance goes to Red Bulls gaffer Hans Backe for having a superior gameplan but for much of the latter part of the season, it was clear that like the rest of FCD, Brek was more than a bit tired and not his usual self that we all saw earlier in the year.

So, when news came out earlier this week that Shea had indeed been called in by Klinsmann for a pair of matches by the US and also that he would be training with English Premier League side Arsenal in December, the natural reaction from fans was of excitement. Sure, it’s great to see the players from your favorite club log minutes with the national team and to also see them train with a side from the Premiership, but there’s also a down side to all this.

According to reports, FCD is set to begin preseason training on January 15, 2012. That is about 10 weeks from now. With Shea set to play for the US in a pair of upcoming friendlies and then train with Arsenal in December, when is this kid going to get some much-needed and well-deserved rest?

Some will counter with the fact that he’s only 21 and he’ll have plenty of time to recuperate between playing for the US and heading across the pond in December and that might be true. But for a kid who was obviously suffering from severe mental and physical fatigue down the stretch, shouldn’t some R&R be the first order of business for Shea?

Getting called in by the national team is a huge honor and it’s clear Brek’s fortunes on that front have been rising under the new regime. It’s also a big deal for him to get to train with Arsenal. But will all this be worth it if he doesn’t get the proper amount of time off this off-season and his form suffers heading into 2012?

Here’s hoping young Brek Shea gets some time off. For all he accomplished in 2011, he definitely deserves it.