An Offseason Abroad: Brek Shea at Arsenal
Playing more soccer. A simple message, but one that U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has continued to emphasize as critical for a player's development, including members of the U.S. MNT. For the domestic-based players on the National Team who have a longer offseason, Klinsmann used his contacts in Europe to arrange training opportunities in Germany and England, giving them the opportunity to continue training and challenge themselves in a new environment. ussoccer.com spoke with several of the players about their experience, and how it will impact their careers moving forward.
Dec. 11, 2011
In this third installment, ussoccer.com spoke with FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea. The 21-year-old has been a consistent part of the National Team since August, and is only one of three players along with Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard to have appeared in all seven matches since Klinsmann took charge. Expected to a big part of the U-23 team that will attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, Shea got a huge opportunity when Klinsmann arranged a training spell at Arsenal with his former manager Arsene Wenger. ( First installment: Juan Agudelo | Second installment: Kyle Beckerman)
ussoccer.com: How did the opportunity to train at Arsenal come up?
BS: “Jurgen wanted to get the MLS guys to train more, so he called me in and said I would be training with Arsenal. I was excited, because Arsenal is really good at developing young players.”
ussoccer.com: You had a chance to meet Arsene Wenger in the U.S. locker room following the game against France. What was that experience like?
BS: “It was pretty cool that he came into the locker room and talked to the guys. He looked like he was really good friends with Klinsmann. It was great to meet him before I actually went to Arsenal, so when I got there, it was a little easier.”
ussoccer.com: What was your first day like?
BS: “I got there in the afternoon and ate lunch, then talked to Arsene Wenger again. He said I should be looking forward to training with the guys and learning a lot. I took a tour around the facility, and then I went home and rested. I started training the next day.”
ussoccer.com: Did you have an opportunity to train with the first team?
BS: “I trained with the first team most of the time, but on days that they had a game I trained with the reserve team.”
ussoccer.com: Arsenal is famed for their impressive facilities. What did you see?
BS: “It was pretty impressive. They have eight fields. They have an indoor facility and a school for the young kids. They have locker rooms for the youth teams, the reserves and the first team. There’s another facility for the U-15/16s. There’s a lot of stuff there.”
ussoccer.com: You go in the locker room on the first day and see players like Mikel Arteta, Andriy Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Robin Van Persie ... Were you nervous?
BS: “I guess you could say I was nervous. I was also really excited. You don’t really know anybody but you know of them, so it’s kind of cool to see those guys and start training and chatting with them, learning their personalities. And then actually on the field, you get to see that.”
ussoccer.com: What was the reception like? How did they treat you?
BS: “I think everyone was cool. Once you play soccer and you act like everything’s the same, and once they see you can play, everything’s cool.”
ussoccer.com: What was your impression of the training sessions?
BS: “Very hard. Very good, very sharp and to the point. You’re always playing, always there is technical work. Everything was just sharp.”
ussoccer.com: Were there specific things that you noticed about any of the players that you thought you could improve on yourself?
BS: “I think playing with other players at a top level, the ball moves so much faster. Everyone else is moving toward you so much faster. You get the ball and you have plenty of options, but you also have to make decisions quickly.”
ussoccer.com: Were there things that you took away from it that you want to try to work on personally?
BS: “I think just being sharper in little situations, that first and second touch, and the movement off the ball.”
ussoccer.com: What was your time there like off the field?
BS: “I lived in a nice hotel. It had a nice gym and a couple restaurants. Most of the time I stayed in the hotel, but then I got to be friends with some of the guys, and I did hang out with them a lot. It was good.”
ussoccer.com: Did you go to any games while you were there?
BS: “I went to Arsenal vs. Dortmund in the Champions League, then the league game against Fulham, and then I went to the Carling Cup game against Manchester City.”
ussoccer.com: What the experience like of being at a game at the Emirates?
BS: “The first one I went to in the Champions League was really sweet. Dortmund had like 7,000 traveling fans there, so it was loud the whole time. Either the away or the home team was always singing. It was 70,000 people cheering, so it was pretty cool.”
ussoccer.com: Did Arsene talk to you on the way out?
BS: “He said he thought I did really well, and that he saw improvement. I thanked him for the opportunity.”
ussoccer.com: What was the most memorable thing that happened while you were there?
BS: “Just being able to train with them the day before the Champions League. I got a different view of the way they practice for the Champions League. All the media was there. It was pretty cool being a part of that.”
ussoccer.com: What are you personally taking away from the experience?
BS: “I had a good time, and I saw the level that they play at, and I want to get to it. It was cool to see how they play and what some of the expectations are. You need to be able to do those things constantly and never take a break.”