Too many times, football fans hear about the “next big thing” and never see that player come to the forefront. Americans have had this experience relatively recently. Freddy Adu, a kid who was dubbed the “next Pele,” was hyped up to be the greatest revelation America had ever seen. Media took hold and pushed Adu to turn professional at just age 14. Millions tuned into his debut, and eventually, he dropped out of the spotlight and almost out of the game altogether. There are multiple players who have followed this same trajectory, but now some young players are trying to buck the trend.
Brek Shea is one of those players. He grew up in a state that adores American football. Texas lives and breathes it, so it is relatively surprising that the state produces some of the top soccer talent the United States has to offer. Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Omar Gonzalez, and Lee Nguyen are just a few examples from the Lone Star State. Shea grew up in Texas and honed his game at the US Developmental Center in Bradenton, Florida. He was a staple in the youth system for the United States, growing his reputation.
Shea rode that wave of hype into the 2008 MLS SuperDraft after signing a Generation Adidas contract straight out of high school. He ended up selected 2nd overall to FC Dallas, where he began his pro career. For the next 4 years, Shea was a utility man for FC Dallas, playing almost every position on the field outside of goalkeeper. He made 98 appearances, scoring 19 goals in his time at the club. He did show enough raw potential for European clubs to express interest. He ended up accepting an offer from Stoke City in the Premier League.
This was the move that threatened to derail Shea’s career. It did, for a time. Shea only made 3 appearances for Stoke, and a handful of others on loan to Championship clubs Barnsley and Birmingham City. Shea has lamented about his decision to go to Stoke, saying that he wished that he had waited for a better fit. Any way you put it, Shea’s time in England was a huge letdown. It was the type of letdown which many players never recover from. Then came his chance.
The MLS added two new expansion franchises, giving multiple players a chance to begin or resurrect their careers. NYCFC went with more proven players, while Orlando City decided to take a chance on Shea. Another important manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, has monitored the move with extreme interest. The USMNT is in severe need of a left back in the wake of DaMarcus Beasley’s international retirement. There are very few pure left backs in the United States player pool, so Shea has begun to give the position his best shot.
Shea has long been known to be a speedy winger, but has never really set a position for himself. His most common spot has been in the midfield, but with Klinsmann’s new plans, it seems left back is his position of the very near future. In fact, Shea has committed to the position at Orlando City as well, citing his national team career as a large factor. He has gotten lucky to cash in on the position change, with Klinsmann calling Shea up for multiple national team camps and friendlies.
2015 has been very kind to Brek Shea. Klinsmann has given Shea the chance to impress, and he has not disappointed. In his three appearances in 2015, Shea has two goals, including an absolutely brilliant free kick against Switzerland. He played all of the matches at left back, looking surprisingly competent for a player who has recently just switched to the position. Sure he got beat a few times, but even the best outside backs get beaten sometimes. He will be in San Antonio as the US takes on Mexico in a friendly, and it will be interesting to see if Shea gets playing time, or if Klinsmann will go with more Mexican-based players.
The past few months have been a whirlwind. Somehow that wind has propelled Brek Shea back into the limelight, almost willing his career back on track. For a 25-year-old, it was critical to see the field with regularity again. Thus, we have a nice little Brek Shea Revival.
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