Brek Shea’s USMNT return includes a personal, artistic touch

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It had been 550 days since Brek Shea scored an international goal for his country. The national team had played 2,008 minutes, with or without him – mostly without him.

So when Brek Shea ripped home a “lashed-in bullet” from a tight angle to open the scoring against Chile in the sixth minute of their January friendly, the moment took over. Brek covered his face with his hand and celebrated like it meant the world to him.

Because it did. In that moment, Brek’s entire lifestyle came together in one big personal achievement that marked the culmination of years of hard work on and off the field.

Brek Shea's celebration has a very particular meaning (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
Brek Shea’s goal celebration has a very particular meaning (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

SHEA RETURNS IN STYLE

“When I do it on the field it has a personal meaning for my career and my comeback after struggling in England. That’s what it stands for to me.” -Brek Shea

Brek had struggled to find the field in all facets of his career, not just under Jurgen Klinsmann. His on-again, off-again club journey has been well documented in the United States. A tumultuous two-year journey to England was ambitious but also a struggle. He managed just three Premier League appearances with Stoke City and 14 more in the Championship during loan spells at Barnsley and Birmingham City that both ended abruptly.

Those struggles understandably translated to a significant drop in national team appearances. He was a mainstay on the 2013 Gold Cup squad, appearing in every match during the tournament and scoring the winner during the final after coming on as a substitute. But following his Gold Cup heroics, Shea appeared in just four matches over the course of the next year and a half.

Then came his January start. It’s clear that his move to Orlando City has reignited his national team career. Earning a full 90 minutes against Chile in the beginning of a busy early 2015 for the United States, Brek exploded back onto the scene with his sixth minute goal. But that wasn’t all. He performed like the Brek Shea of old, bursting forward to provide an attacking threat while actually providing a capable defensive structure – the most common criticism against his ability to play left-back.

Brek Shea is back.

MONOPOLY MONEY

“I was really humbled to see a member of the American team doing one of my moves.” -Alec Monopoly

Soccer is just a part of Brek Shea’s fascinating world. The 25-year-old Texas native has a number of passions that occupy his time when he’s not on the field.

One of those passions is art. The other is shoes. The combination of the two led Brek to discover a symbol he would display to the world on that evening at Estadio El Teniente.

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Brek has been covering his face in photos for a while on his Instagram page, and he displayed the gesture to a national audience when he gave the US a 1-0 lead early. But the goal celebration isn’t his own, it’s a tribute to a friend he greatly respects, an artist named Alec Monopoly.

“I try to be an artist in my off time and my free time, so I obviously have artists I really like and their style and what they do,” Brek said. “He’s one of my favorite artists, and I kind of picked up on his hand thing and how he hides face. He obviously has his reasons why he does it, and I kind of took it and spun it and have my reasons why I do it.”

Alec is a graffiti artist who began on the streets of New York developing his skills and keeping away from police all at the same time. For a graffiti artist displaying a talent that Alec describes as “super illegal,” an artist’s identity is his life. To keep his hidden, Alec began concealing the lower half of his face in photographs by facing away from the camera, wearing a mask, or by simply covering his face with his hand. To keep his real name hidden, Alec developed his pseudonym from his repeated depictions of the board game Monopoly, mostly the game’s mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags.

Years removed from his start on the streets and now a nationally renowned bigtime artist, Alec’s work sells for thousands of dollars, and he has art displayed in the houses of celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Snoop Dogg. But he’s never forgotten his roots. “All the celebrities, that stuff doesn’t really matter to me, all I care about is art and graffiti,” Alec said. “But something like this happening [Brek’s celebration], I was really taken back by it.”

Alec still never shows his face in pictures, allowing him to remain somewhat anonymous to the public. But he and Brek connected over another love: shoes.

“We were connected through Del Toro Shoes, ” Brek said. “I’m a shoe fanatic, and I’m a big fan of Del Toro Shoes. I have Alec’s personal shoe that he designed through Del Toro.” Alec echoed that sentiment, saying he thinks Brek “has bought every single pair they make.”

CONTINUING TO GROW

“In the years I haven’t been playing, I had a rough time with injuries and playing time. So now that I’m back playing every week in MLS and back with the national team, it was kind of my thing where I knew if I scored, this is what I’m going to do.” -Brek Shea

Brek’s friendship with Alec is just beginning. Having borrowed Alec’s trademark move for his own personal touch, it clearly was more than a fleeting one-time display. Brek scored again just two months later against Switzerland, and again he covered his face.

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Brek’s goal celebration has a deep connection to his personal journey both on and off the field.

The goal in Zurich gave Brek his fourth goal in his last 12 national team appearances, numbers one might expect from a striker. While those appearances are scattered across a nearly two year span, he’s always provided an attacking flair on the field. His defense was at times suspect, but that seems to have changed.

Against Denmark in March, Shea was a halftime substitute, and he was instrumental in the US maintaining a draw despite falling a man down with nearly a half-hour still to go. In both wins since, 2-0 victories over Panama and Mexico, Shea provided some attacking threat but mainly focused on his defensive duties, and he performed admirably, going largely unnoticed, a positive for a defender.

With his play on the field showing new life, so is his relationship with Alec. The two both have understandably busy lives and have yet to meet in person, but are in constant contact and hope to do so soon. And while Brek has expressed his love for Alec’s work, it goes both ways. “I love all sports, but I have a crazy schedule and I don’t follow [soccer] like crazy,” Alec said. “But obviously now I’m going to be the biggest follower ever [of the US national team].”

So Brek Shea is back. How long will depend on his ability to maintain a high level on the field, but at the moment, he seems to be a more permanent member of the ever-changing US roster while Klinsmann continues to experiment. And as always with Brek, he brings his all to the soccer field, including a colorful personality.

Mexicans abroad: Weekend roundup

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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made sure to let Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini know that he made no mistake in handing him the No. 9, opening his account in the new season.

Over in Portugal, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona continues to gain minutes and impress, while Hector Moreno scores in a friendly with his new Qatari club.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico and the United States this weekend.

Premier League

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, West Ham — Rolling back the years, Chicharito… The 31-year-old started, played 83 minutes, and made scored his first goal of the season for West Ham in their 1-1 draw away to Brighton.

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Wolves and Jimenez take on Manchester United on Monday.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera featured on Atletico’s bench, but was not called on by Diego Simeone in Los Colchonero’s 1-0 win over Getafe. His La Liga remains on standby.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis — The fulcrum of Betis’ midfield last season, Guardado didn’t suit up for the Sevilla-based side’s opening 2-1 loss to Real Valladolid.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old, who many are hoping will have a breakout season, was left on the bench by first-year coach Rubi.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — The soon-to-be 28-year-old was a fixture for Celta last year. It looks like that trend will repeat itself this time around with Araujo starting and playing 90 minutes against Real Madrid in the 3-1 loss.

Eredivisie

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, PSV Eindhoven — Chucky might have already played his last game for PSV. Multiple reports indicate the 24-year-old winger is set to become the most expensive Mexican player ever in a $46 million move to Napoli.

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Unlike last year, it seems PSV will lean on “Guti” a lot more this season. On Sunday, the midfielder started and played all 90 minutes in PSV’s 2-0 victory over Heracles.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez made his Eredivisie debut in Ajax’s 4-1 thumping of VVV-Venlo, playing the final 27 minutes as a center back.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona — Corona, for a second consecutive week, started and registered 90 minutes in a Porto victory. He is the lone Mexican in the Portuguese first division following Herrera’s and Antonio Briseño’s respective departures this summer.

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Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea and Zulte Waregem take on Charleroi on Monday.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   In a friendly against Al Khor, the 31-year-old defender scored his first goal for the Qatari club. In two seasons with Real Sociedad, Moreno scored two goals.

Diego Reyes, Fenerbahçe  The center back is reportedly not in the Turkish giants’ plans, and Tigres sounds like his next destination.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — Not a household name, the fullback continues to add minutes with Roda, which he joined this summer. On Friday, he played 90 minutes in Roda’s 4-0 loss to Volendam.

Americans Abroad: Weekend roundup

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Christian Pulisic made his much-anticipated home debut as Chelsea secured their first point of the season. Starting and playing 71 minutes, the Pennsylvania native struggled to make a difference for the Blues, though, failing to record a shot.

Meanwhile in Sweden, a familiar face proved to be the X factor for his team. Romain Gall, 24, scored and recorded two assists in Malmo’s 5-0 win on Sunday. The midfielder joins Julian Green and Joel Sonora as the only Americans to score abroad this weekend in top-tier leagues.

Between the sticks, Zack Steffen opened his Bundesliga account with an impressive nine saves in Dusseldorf’s victory.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The 20-year-old made his home debut in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City, but failed to record a shot in 71 minutes of play.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — The fullback remains sidelined as he continues to recover from a groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson started and went all 90 minutes for the Latics in their 2-0 loss to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — 90 minutes and a clean sheet for the 24-year-old in Reading’s 3-0 win over Cardiff City.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers captain recorded another 90 minutes in Hull City’s draw against Brentford this weekend. Surely, Lichaj will continue to feature game in and game out.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — After two positive matches to start the season, Cameron and QPR fell 2-0 to Bristol City. The Massachusetts native played all 90 minutes.

Tim Ream, Fulham — 90 minutes and a start for Ream in Fulham’s 2-1 loss to Huddersfield Town on Friday. From the looks of it, the American center back will be staple defender for the recently-relegated club.

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — After starting for consecutive weeks, Haji came off the bench and only featured for 19 minutes against Ajax.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — The young defender played and contributed well for 90 minutes in Ajax’s 4-1 victory over VVV Venlo. Dest continues to impress Ajax’s coaching staff, apparently.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback played 47 minutes against Heerenveen. FC Emmen won 2-0 on Saturday.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — No start for Weah this time. In Lille’s 1-0 loss to Amiens, the 19-year-old came off the bench and played six minutes.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordan-Siebatcheu, like Weah, had a very similar weekend: coming on as a substitute and playing 17 minutes. Rennes, however, won 2-1 over PSG.

Bundesliga

Weston McKennie, Schalke — In Schalke’s first game of the season, the midfielder started and played 85 minutes in the 0-0 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Zack Steffen, Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf Steffen and Morales started and went all 90 minutes in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s praiseworthy win against Werder Bremen. Steffen, in particular, put his unquestioned shot-stopping abilities to use. The Bundesliga debutant finished with nine saves.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  The 19-year-old saw some minutes on the field, coming off the bench in the 83rd minute.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson is not slated to be a constant starter for Mönchengladbach this season, at least that’s what Saturday showed us. The 31-year-old only played 27 minutes.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Chandler made the 18 but did not play for Eintracht Frankfurt in their 1-0 win over Hoffenheim.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams was a no-go for RB Leipzig in their 4-0 win over Union Berlin.

Honorable Mentions:

Romain Gall, Malmo  After seeing a few minutes here and there, the USMNT capped midfielder scored and assisted twice in Malmo’s 5-0 victory Falkenbergs. If Gall wants to be a part of Greg Berhalter’s plans, however, more of this will be needed.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth The 24-year-old scored the lone goal in Greuther Furth’s victory.

Joel Sonora, Arsenal de Sarandi — Sonora played 82 minutes opened his account with Arsenal de Sarandi in their 3-0 over Defense y Justicia.

Reports: Napoli agree record fee for Hirving Lozano

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Mexico’s most expensive player ever will soon be Hirving “Chucky” Lozano.

According to multiple reports, PSV Eindhoven and Napoli have agreed to a $46 million transfer fee for the Mexican international. According to Sky Sport 24‘s Francesco Modugno, the 24-year-old will travel to Rome on Tuesday and complete his medical on Wednesday morning, ending the Serie A club’s summer-long pursuit.

Lozano will reportedly sign a five-year deal with Gli Azzurri worth $4 million per year plus bonuses.

Over the course of the past few months, Napoli were also linked with Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez. In the end, Carlo Ancelotti, who is planning to give Juventus a run for their money this season, is adding the speedy winger to his attacking corps that features the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik.

Despite coming off injured in the 50th minute against ADO Den Haagg in his last PSV appearance, it is believed it won’t influence Lozano’s medical. He will break the transfer record for a Mexican player set by Raul Jimenez in his summer move to Wolverhampton Wanderers from Benfica worth $43 million.

Having sold Memphis Depay for nearly $39 million in 2015 to Manchester United, Lozano’s departure would set a new record for the Dutch giants as well.

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante