BREK SHEA IS A LEFTY, and true to the stereotype he's a bit different. "He's not one of those guys who walks a straight line," says Schellas Hyndman, his FC Dallas coach. "There aren't people out there who can imitate him."
Just one glance at the 21-year-old midfielder shows he is indeed unique: great size (6'3", 188), lightning quickness and a shock of ever-changing platinum hair. Shea's stats stand out too. Without taking a single penalty or free kick, he led Dallas with 11 goals last season, earning a league MVP nomination and a starting wing spot on the U.S. national team. But Shea's
In College Station, Texas, a kid with Shea's size and speed usually handles pigskins. Shea did play QB and wide receiver through ninth grade, but he loved soccer, honing his touch in six-a-side adult leagues. "Most of them were Latin guys," he says. "We played on really bad dirt pitches, sometimes with just cones for goals."
Those bumpy fields are a world away from the Arsenal training grounds near London, where, hooked up by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Shea recently spent a month practicing with the Premier League power. "Just seeing how quick Andrey Arshavin plays in small-sided games," Shea says, "or how smooth Robin van Persie is on his runs on the big pitch is really unbelievable."
That exposure sets the stage for Shea to play in Europe, likely sooner than later. For now, he'll key the Dallas attack and probably lead the U.S. U-23 team at Olympic qualifying in March. "We learn from his work ethic and his habits," says U-23 defender Zarek Valentin. "We look up to him."
And his hair? It's no accident that Shea's national-team roommate, 19-year-old striker Juan Agudelo, recently introduced his own Brekish Mohawk "We're just trying to start a trend," Agudelo says. The way Shea's going right now, you can see why.