After a four-year stint with FC Dallas, Brek Shea headed to England in what eventually became a failed stay with Stoke City that included loan spells at Barnsley F.C. and Birmingham City. Looking to re-establish himself in the States, Shea joined Orlando City in December of 2014, a few months ahead of the Lions' MLS March 2015 debut.
The 6-foot-4 former midfielder was brought in to play left back for the Lions, but due to injuries he ended up sliding forward to left wing for much of the season. His versatility proved important throughout the campaign (when healthy), but he missed nearly two months in the middle of the year thanks to a sports hernia. He settled in nicely upon his return, helping the Lions finish the season on a strong note.
Despite injury troubles in the middle of the season and time missed while with the U.S. Men's National Team, Shea amassed nearly 1,500 minutes for Adrian Heath's side in 2015. He started the season on the back line at left back, and his size and athleticism made his transition to defense fairly smooth. For the season, he averaged 1.3 tackles per match, 1.5 interceptions and 1.1 blocks.
He moved to midfield later in the season after the season-ending injury to Kevin Molino and other knocks thinned out the Lions' options, and he looked natural thanks to prior experience playing in the midfield. Shea turned in a pair of assists to go along with 0.8 key passes per match and an 80.3 percent passing success rate on 36 passes per outing. Shea did not light the world on fire statistically and he failed to register a goal, but his impact was still big for the Lions, most notably late in the season after returning from his injury.
Shea's best single game came in a rout of LA Galaxy on May 17. Playing on the left wing, Shea got things going early in what eventually turned into a 4-0 blowout by assisting Eric Avila's opening goal as part of a sublime team sequence.
The headed assist was Shea's first of the season, and it started an avalanche of goals that gave City its first signature win in MLS. Shea finished the day with that assist and a 78.7 percent passing rate. He provided five crosses on the afternoon in addition to a pair of accurate long balls while also putting one shot on frame. Shea was dangerous and assisted Luke Boden in defense on the left, one of our earliest looks at the left-flank pairing our own Wade Williams dubbed "The Killer B's."
Having proven his versatility in 2015 and providing a spark at the tail-end of the season, Shea certainly looks set for a big role once again in 2016. The Lions won just one of eight matches when Shea was out after his hernia surgery, but they immediately went on a five-match win streak when he returned. There were many factors that went into City's lull during Shea's absence, but his return was absolutely a factor in the hot streak that followed.
While Boden showed that he is an MLS-caliber fullback after his insertion into the lineup, Shea can use his skill set to help on the left either in attack or defense and remains a valuable piece in Heath's side.
Final 2015 Rating
The Mane Land staff had some differing opinions on Brek's season, but we settled on a final grade of 7.0. Some thought that two assists was a disappointing return for a player on a $475,000 base salary, but as the spark he provided during Orlando City's 5-1 finish to the season showed, that can't really sum up what the Jack-of-all-trades midfielder/defender brings to the squad. Shea was solid in defense and attack for Orlando and his versatility was valuable when he was healthy, so we look forward to seeing him hopefully play a full season in '16.