Brek Shea is having a very, very bad week


You know what they say about spiraling times of misfortune like these: If it was raining $20 bills, Brek Shea would surely get conked on the head with a roll of old pennies.

The young U.S. international (at right, in a rare thumbs-up moment of 2012) needs a life timeout or something. He’s having a  very bad week month year.

Yesterday, a story in Dallas’ alternative weekly detailed a conversation that Shea says took place in 2010 between MLS commissioner Don Garber and FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman. According to Shea, Garber called Hyndman to deliver a sort of ultimatum: either play the young man or move him elsewhere, via sell or trade.

My first reaction: that certainly doesn’t sound like Garber (nor any right-minded league official). That sounds more like a player’s interpretation of events, possibly (but not certainly) attached to a tangle of informal conversations between players, agents, coaches and power ties in league and team offices.

So I called MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche, who relayed a message from commissioner Garber.

“Decisions about who plays are made by clubs and their technical staffs, not by the league office,” Courtemanche told me.

He didn’t want to address any specific this or that. Courtemanches didn’t say why, exactly, but I think I get it. Shea is having a crappy week – if I’m guessing, construction workers are busily working in the blazing Texas sun at this very minute, constructing a new wing in Hyndman’s dog house for the young left winger – and the league office didn’t want to pile on by making things worse on Shea.

Did I say “crappy week?” Maybe that’s underselling the point. Dallas’ young star is not performing well, he’s being asked to play out of position, he’s not scoring, he’s lost his mojo with the national team and that U.S. Olympic dream went kablooey, his battered MLS team is struggling mightily just to tread water and now the man seems to have gotten sideways with a no-nonsense coach.

Things could only be worse if someone kidnapped Shea’s dog.

So that’s why the league passed on addressing this specific situation. Besides, I get the feeling that I could have ticked off a long list of similar scenarios and I would have gotten the ditto answer: “The league office does not decide who plays,” Courtemanche reiterated. “Those decisions about who plays are made by the clubs’ technical staffs.”

Not long after that story came out Wednesday, national TV cameras saw a pouting Shea subbed out in Dallas’ loss to San Jose. He had what looked like a brief, terse sideline exchange with Hyndman. Here’s what FCD veteran midfielder Daniel Hernandez told ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle afterward:

Nobody likes to come out of a game. I don’t like to come out of a game. I’m pissed off when I come out of a game, or when I don’t play. But when things are not going well for you, or you’re not having a good game, and coach needs to make a change, you have to respect it. At this point in the season, we can’t have those breakdowns right now, because we need everybody. We need him. He’s one of the stars of our team, and we need him to step up with his leadership and his play. He’s obviously one of the best players in the country. In order for us to try to fight to get into the playoffs, we’re going to need him and everyone else, 100 percent.”

She wasn’t made available for comment (for which the team will probably be fined.) Hyndman declined to comment on his young star other than to say, “I think he is in enough hot water already.”

Sounds like Shea is in for a “talking-to.” From Hyndman and probably from team leaders, too.

So, yes, this is a bad time for Brek Shea. He’s young. He’ll bounce back.

But if we could offer a wee bit of advice: just keep your head down for a while, kid. Because those doggone rolls of old pennies can leave a mark!

Wenger: I’ll decide my future in September

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Arsene Wenger, former manager of Arsenal for more than 20 years, is famous for many things. One is either his indicative nature, or ability to show prudence when making decisions, depending on how you see it.

Wenger has been without a job for the first time in more than two decades, and he’s been taking his time deciding on what his future will be. There no doubt have been plenty of offers for him, whether to be a club coach, national team coach or a media pundit on any number of television networks across the globe.

[READ: Salah named to UEFA POY shortlist]

“I decided not to decide,” Wenger said in an interview with Corse Matin while on vacation in Corsica  “I was intoxicated (with soccer) so long that I made a promise to make no decision until September.”

In a follow-up question about whether he would go into another field, such as politics, Wenger rejected that, so it appears he still sees his future in soccer. But in the meantime, he’s been busy playing sports and relaxing by the ocean.

“Yes, (it’s been) very good,” Wenger said of his time off, “even better than I thought. When you have been as busy as I have been, you always fear a little emptiness.

“But I quickly organized myself in this new stage of my life, I do a lot of sport, here I eat with my friends, copiously, I talk a lot too, I can stay for hours watching the horizon, I read all day, at the moment a book by Philip Roth, I Married a Communist.”

In the question and answer, Wenger also backed former Arsenal star Thierry Henry to take over at Bordeaux, as has been rumored, though he warned he wasn’t sure if Henry was truly ready to sacrifice everything to be a manager.

“Yes, he wants to do it, he is intelligent and he has the qualities,” Wenger said. “The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice our life for the coaching profession.”

Salah, Ronaldo and Modric on UEFA Player of Year shortlist

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Mohamed Salah‘s magical season for Liverpool could help him usurp what had been a hegemony at the top of UEFA’s yearly awards.

[READ: Morata admits to struggles in Conte’s system]

Salah, along with former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric were all nominated for UEFA’s Player of the Year award. Salah led Liverpool to an improbable run to the Champions League final, scoring 10 goals and dishing out five assists in 13 Champions League matches.

Ronaldo of course won his third-straight Champions League title last season and fifth overall while leading all goalscorers in the competition for the sixth-straight season. And Modric, starring for Real Madrid along with Ronaldo before the latter left for Juventus, won his third-straight title and led Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.

Here’s the rest of the top 10. The Men’s Player of the Year, along with Women’s Player of the Year and Champions League Best XI will be announced on August 30. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have combined to win the last four awards.

4. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético & France) – 72 points
5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina) – 55 points
6. Kylian Mbappé (Paris & France) – 43 points
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium) – 28 points
8. Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid & France) – 23 points
9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium) – 15 points
10. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain) – 12 points

Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

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Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Tottenham to host first Champions League fixture at Wembley

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What seemed like a given was finally made official on Monday. Tottenham will host its first UEFA Champions League match at Wembley Stadium.

[READ: D.C. United wins fourth in a row]

The club announced that its first Champions League match, set to be held on either September 18/19 or October 2/3, will be held at England’s national stadium, as safety concerns have kept the new White Hart Lane from opening on time. The draw for the Champions League group stage will be held on August 30, following the conclusion of the Playoff Round, which is set to get underway this week.

Tottenham has already moved upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Cardiff City to Wembley Stadium, but the venue for Tottenham’s highly-anticipated home match against Manchester City on October 28 has yet to be determined.

Due to the stadium delays, Tottenham can also apply to the FA to play their League Cup match in September on the road, regardless of the draw.