Despite the wealth of statistical data available to sports fans in 2015, we still haven't quite figured out how to quantify every aspect of what makes a player impactful.
Looking at Brek Shea's stat line of two assists in 18 league appearances this season for Orlando City, you wouldn't be inclined to think that the big Texan is one of the squad's more integral players. After all, those two assists are just one more than the much-maligned Lewis Neal has accrued in 20 MLS appearances this year.
But even with the wealth of data available in 2015 from the likes of Opta and others, it's tough to really appreciate Shea's contributions to this OCSC side. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound winger/fullback has done a little bit of everything for City this season, starting the year as a left back, then moving forward to play on the left wing in the attacking midfield, and even dabbling at the right back spot as he did in Saturday's 2-1 win over Montreal Impact.
The switch to right back on Saturday was made out of necessity following a vicious collision between starting right back Rafael Ramos and starting center back Tommy Redding sent both players out of the game and forced manager Adrian Heath to get a bit creative. After subbing in Luke Boden to play his customary left back position, Heath deployed Shea on the right flank out of position for the final 79 minutes of the match.
Boden, along with fellow substitute Seb Hines -- who bagged the match-winner in minute 80 -- both played extremely well off the bench, but Shea's evening playing out of position should not be overlooked. Shea's defending was solid as he dealt with Montreal's left-side duo of Johan Venegas and Nigel Reo-Coker, and his performance helped solidify a back four combination that had never played together.
In addition to his defensive efforts, he added a creative element going forward that was surprisingly good for a player operating on his weak side.
Shea played one particularly pretty ball forward to Carlos Rivas that turned out to be a key pass, and he later generated Orlando's best chance of the second half prior to its go-ahead goal, when he unloaded a 35-yard curler with his left foot that would have had Montreal's Evan Bush beaten had it not rattled off the crossbar near the far post.
It was not a world class outing from Shea, but considering the circumstances and the magnitude of the match for Orlando -- which would have been eliminated from playoff contention with a loss -- it was an admirable showing for the Texan, who continues to display his versatile blend of size, power and incredible athleticism in different areas of the pitch.
"Brek was unbelievable having to play on the right," Heath said in his post-match presser.
Despite not filling up the stat sheet, Shea's value to Orlando has been proven in the results. After his groin injury sidelined him for 11 league matches in which OCSC only won one while losing seven, the Lions are 4-0 since his return to fitness. He's provided a boost off the bench, as he did against Sporting KC and at Chicago, and has gone the distance in the last two matches with 90-minute outings in different positions.
While many fans expected more goal scoring production from a player with Shea's attacking skill and history, the jack of all trades midfielder-defender hybrid has found plenty of ways to contribute to winning soccer for OCSC in 2015, and Saturday night was the most recent example.