FC Dallas’ Brek Shea and George John hone their skills in Britain
FC Dallas standout Brek Shea capped a successful 2011 with a month-long training stint at Arsenal. Few expected much to come of the opportunity in terms of a loan deal or something more permanent – least of all Arsenal skipper Arsene Wenger who downplayed their invitation to Shea – but it was a great chance for Shea to train with some of Europe’s best during the MLS offseason. Between U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups and the Arsenal invite, FC Dallas fans were proud to see one of their best get so much deserved recognition.
Then a few weeks ago came the news that defender George John was heading to West Ham United for a two-month loan spell. Again fans were pleased to see one of FC Dallas’ outstanding young talents validated with such a high-profile opportunity. Both Shea and John were also invited to the U.S. Men’s National Team winter training camp, though John is unable to attend due to the West Ham loan.
The Shea and John opportunities highlight a catch-22 for American soccer as a whole. MLS is getting better every year and helping produce world-class players, but they’re not necessarily able to keep those players stateside. On one hand, the more our best players get to play top-level soccer the better – especially for national team purposes. On the other hand, it doesn’t bode well for the development of MLS if its best prospects get scooped up by foreign clubs (latest example: Bolton’s snag of Tim Ream from NY Red Bulls). I don’t blame players at all for wanting to give Europe a go if a club comes calling – it will probably make them a better player (and make them more cash). But as a fan, I want to see top players like Shea and John don the FCD red and white for the long haul.
For now, we can supposedly look forward to seeing Shea and John in the FCD lineup when the new MLS season kicks off in March (though John’s deal apparently leaves an opening for West Ham to keep him on if things go well). I hope we do get to see them back in Dallas, as they’re both rising stars playing for a franchise that needs the potential drawing power of stars more than most other MLS teams. I think the sky’s the limit for Shea in particular. He could be the U.S. National Team’s best player in a few years. FC Dallas fans better enjoy these guys while we can, because the reality is they may soon be too good for a club our size to afford to keep.
What do you think of offseason loan deals for MLS players? Does it help or hurt MLS?