After everything became official yesterday afternoon, Brek Shea was the newest Orlando City player to join the roster for the upcoming 2015 season. While there was a lot of excitement and buzz about Shea coming back to MLS after spending two years abroad, many felt that he was not the same player who dominated the league back in 2011.
While it is true that Shea had a tough time over in Europe, only making three appearances with Stoke City, this does not necessarily mean that Shea is past his prime.
As with many players who have been in Shea's shoes can say, the transition from MLS to any club in Europe can be quite challenging and does not always work out. Football culture, especially in England, is quite rigorous and intense compared to American soccer culture. As Shea put it in a recent interview with SI's Brian Straus:
"You have to realize how big soccer is over here. Every little thing a player does is magnified times 10 and that can get kind of annoying. I had a few incidents on social media I learned from early on. I think I've gotten the hang of it. I'm used to it. I've adjusted."
For any player that is not used to the kind of atmosphere and severity, it can be quite overwhelming, especially being essentially "thrown to the wolves" without any warning or prior preparation. Even USMNT legend Landon Donovan, who had spent his early years with Germany's Bayer Leverkusen, was never able to transition to the European game and ended up having an incredible career in MLS.
During the announcement of his signing, Shea called his time in England a "learning experience." In the interview with Straus, Shea also remarked:
"When I was younger, the first European club that jumped at me, obviously I wanted to sign. We see the highlight shows and it looks like the greatest thing in the world. Now that I've been over here and seen it, I realize you've got to fight for the right opportunity, the right team, the right players -- instead of just the first opportunity."
After looking back at his experiences, Shea is now looking forward, to his return to the league that he thrived in just a few years ago. It also helps that he is going to a team in Orlando City SC that he already likes. After spending a few weeks training with the team this past summer, Shea was able to get a good idea of what he would be getting into in Orlando, unlike his move to Stoke. Being able to be comfortable with your surroundings and coming into a familiar league can only benefit Shea not only at the club level, but the international stage as well.
Knowing Lions Head Coach Adrian Heath, he will be able to help Shea get back to the form that made him an MLS All-Star and MVP finalist.