Last March (or was it the end of February?) I spent the afternoon in a pub in Boston watching the US play Italy in a friendly. This is the way I remember it: Shea comes on in the second half and gets out wide on the left side and tries for a moment of magic. With his toe he flips the ball over the head of the defender and darts inside toward the goal. That’s when Franz (who bleeds Arsenal red) nudged me in the ribs and said, “I hope Arsenal gets Shea.”
Before that moment, I hadn’t thought about Brek Shea beyond noting that he could probably do with a new hair stylist. But ever since that match last winter when the US beat Italy and Shea attempted his audacious trick, I’ve paid attention. When Shea became the hero at Azteca in the summer, he looked like a young player on the rise, one who was going to be with the national team for a couple more World Cup cycles.
But his time at FC Dallas last season was marked by injury and bench warming. So when I heard that Shea was set to move to Stoke City to join his US international teammate Geoff Cameron, I felt immediately optimistic.
Today, Stoke City host Reading at the Britannia. The kick-off is in about fifteen minutes. It’s possible that Brek Shea will make his Stoke City debut. If he does, and if he does well, then my inexplicable affection for the men in red and white stripes might just be taken past the no turning back mark.
“Who do you support?” asked Derek. I understood from the context of our chat that he was asking which Premiership side I supported.
“I haven’t really decided,” I said. “The brain is bad about these things. Ultimately, it’s the heart that decides. Stoke City wasn’t even on my short list of teams when I started following the EPL, but somehow, I find myself wanting them to win even though they don’t most often. What’s worse is that I prefer to watch teams like Arsenal and Liverpool. But when Stoke plays these sides that play a style of football more attractive to me, my heart is win Stoke. If that makes me a Stoke supporter, then so be it.”
However, given the release of the findings of Europol’s Operation Veto, how could I ever don the jersey of a side that advertises online betting? More about that in a future post. Time to turn on the match.