On Thursday night, FC Dallas did something we haven't done all season and that is they played their best soccer in the last 15 minutes of the match. Despite losing Ricardo Villar to injury and Fabian Castillo playing his first 90 minute match in months, the Dallas attack finally got into gear. The biggest reason why? Brek Shea demanded the ball.
Ugo Ihemelu's last-second goal will likely be remembered as one of the signature moments of 2012, but it was Brek Shea's terrorizing runs against New England right back Florian Lechner that got the FC Dallas attack going. With time ticking away, Shea recognized that Lechner had picked up a slight injury and began to attack like we haven't seen in months. You can clearly see Shea on the broadcast, with about ten minutes remaining, pointing to a teammate and saying "Give me the ball, give me the ball." That's exactly what I want to see!
The results? Brek was at his swashbuckling best and the New England defense struggled to cope. After making multiple runs past Lechner, right midfielder Kelyn Rowe recognized he had to help back on defense, hardly his strong point. In the 86th minute, Shea split both of them on one of his trademark runs from midfield to fire a right-footed shot that deflected and should've been a goal if not for Matt Reis' heroics.
Just minutes after that, Shea was played through on a brilliant pass from Bobby Warshaw that Lechner didn't even bother trying to keep up with. Center back Stephen McCarthy was forced to pull away from his central defense position leaving the Revolution exposed with only AJ Soares back to defend the duo of Castillo and Perez crashing the Revolution goal. The result was another dangerous scoring opportunity that could have very easily bounced a little differently and ended up in the goal for the game-winner. Against many less-experienced goalkeepers in MLS, both plays would've resulted in goals, the shot from Shea and the cross from Shea.
One of the more underrated aspects of Ihemelu's goal also came from the Texan. If you notice, Shea makes a dummy run on the side of the wall that is unprotected, pulling Chris Tierney away from the play and grabbing the attention of players in the mixer like AJ Soares. Am I reading a little bit too much into that? Perhaps, but that change in focus for a split second could have been what allowed Ugo Ihemelu to sneak behind the backline in such a congested box.
We talked last week about how the FC Dallas wing play had to improve, and Shea brought it in the second half. See his heat map from Thursday compared to last week.
Much much improved over the previous week's game, not where it needs to be, but way better.
What I'm left to wonder is, was Brek's play improved because of Zach Loyd at left back? It always seems like the wing that Loyd plays on is the more productive wing and perhaps Schellas Hyndman could bring out the best in Shea by playing his USMNT teammate on the same wing.
Whatever the case is, Brek Shea needs to go all Keyshawn Johnson and say "Just Give Me The Damn Ball!" on Saturday against Montreal. The second half on Thursday was very encouraging, but we need to see it for a whole game before we can declare Brek Shea officially back.