DENVER – Brek Shea is back with the US national team, but it’s still unclear exactly what role he’ll play, if any, during two huge World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Mexico during the next week.
The 23-year-old former FC Dallas winger told MLSsoccer.com following the team’s abbreviated training session on Monday at the University of Denver that his surgically repaired left foot is still healing, but he’s willing to give whatever minutes he can during the team’s match against Costa Rica on Friday night.
“The foot … it’s getting there,” said Shea, who walked at times with a slight but noticeable limp during the team’s session. “I came back early and I’ve been able to play, but obviously it still bothers me a little bit. But I can play, and I want to be in here. I’ve been gone for awhile.”
Not long ago considered a staple in the US starting lineup, Shea fell out of favor at times with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann during 2012 and appeared off the bench during the group stage of World Cup qualifiers last year. At least some of that, however, can be attributed to a nagging injury, which eventually required offseason surgery in November to remove a bone in his foot.
He was initially given a recovery time of three months, but he returned to the fold with new club Stoke City earlier than expected, making his debut in England on Feb. 23 against Fulham. He appeared again off the bench vs. West Ham on March 3, but did play during the team’s game last Wednesday against Newcastle.
Asked Monday what kind of minutes he can give the US team this week, Shea smiled and toed the company line.
“Whatever Jurgen gives me,” he said. “I mean, I probably won’t … my foot can’t take a lot, but I can play. I can definitely play.
“It’s weird, because this morning it hurt and we barely played soccer tennis, and then this afternoon it felt great. So it’s one of those things, where one day it feels really good and another day it doesn’t feel good at all.”
Shea hasn’t played with the US team since a 1-0 win over Jamaica on Sept. 11, and hasn’t started since the team’s historic 1-0 win over Italy on Feb. 29, more than a year ago.
“Brek is getting back into a rhythm and getting some playing time, and we want to see where he is right now,” Klinsmann said during a teleconference on Monday. “We need to work with him the next couple of days, but we are pretty confident that he can add another element to our group here.”
A healthy Shea would likely man the left side of the midfield for the US team – he might even be an option at left back, in a pinch – but now the addition of veteran speedster DaMarcus Beasley adds a new wrinkle to the mix. Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson has also been used on the left side in the past, and was deployed as a winger in the team’s 2-1 loss to Honduras last month.
Shea, however, is simply happy to be back in the mix and to see what he can contribute in 2013.
“A new year and a new environment, I think it’s good for me,” he said. “Last year was a struggle for me, and I had a lot of ups and downs. But that’s life. I’m here and I’m happy, I can’t complain about anything.”