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Brek Shea Set to Make Orlando City Debut in a New Position

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The U.S. international will suit up for the Lions for the first time in an MLS game on Sunday against New York City FC. When he does so, it won't be from his familiar left wing position. Shea is adjusting to life on the back line.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Brek Shea left MLS after the 2012 season and headed for the English Premier League, he had established himself as a talented left wing who could contribute to his team's attack. He returns to Major League Soccer on Sunday determined to leave a new mark on the league.

The 6-foot-3 Texan began 2015 at the U.S. Men's National Team "Camp Cupcake" in January learning a new position. USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann saw Shea's combination of size, speed and power and thought... "I need that on my back line."

He played two games with the USMNT and even scored a goal as a wingback -- a hybrid between midfield and left back -- in a 3-2 friendly loss at Chile. He played a more traditional left back position in a February friendly against Panama.

So, barring something unforeseen, the Brek Shea that returns to MLS Sunday in front of 62,000 fans in the Citrus Bowl will line up at left back for Orlando City SC and not in the more familiar left wing spot.

So, how's the transition going?

"As a defender, by itself, I think I'm very comfortable, and as an attacker, by itself, I'm very comfortable," said Shea." Obviously learning certain situations is just going to come with games and experience."

Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath agrees with Shea's self-assessment.

"I think he has progressed," Heath said. "We got a lot of work done, not only on the field, but also video work in the classroom. We didn't think for one minute after two or three weeks he would have the role down to a ‘T.' It is a work in progress but I when I look at the attributes that Brek has, there's no reason why he can't play left back."

What does Heath see in Brek that gives him such confidence that the veteran can make the switch?

"He's got great, incredible, aerobic capacity," said Heath. "He's very, very quick, very big, very strong, and he's got a great left foot."

Shea's transition in January started slowly. Although Klinsmann put him on the back line, he didn't necessarily have a lot of time to devote to helping Brek make the transition.

"He's got to work on everybody. He doesn't have time to just focus on me," said Shea. "But obviously he gave me what he wanted. Left back's a left back, so defend first and get forward when you can."

Heath is left to finish the job Klinsmann started.

"We'll persevere with it and we'll keep working with him," said Heath. "It's not going to be an overnight thing but he's getting better by the day and he's starting to understand the role a bit better."

Shea has certainly not been the glaring weakness on the back line during the 2015 preseason. Much of the defensive struggles can be attributed to a carousel at the center back spot opposite Aurelien Collin and four guys working together for the first time, while three of them learn a new system. The chemistry and communication was never going to happen overnight.

It isn't just the defense that still has a way to go to be operating at peak capacity. Orlando's U.S. international says each level is trying to coalesce.

"I don't think as a team, anywhere, we're where we want to be," Shea said. "We want to get better each game. As a whole, we're pretty happy but to say we're where we want to be...I don't think so."

What Orlando City needs is the same thing Heath said Shea requires: games experience. That starts Sunday against New York City FC. The fact that the Citrus Bowl will be filled to capacity with screaming, purple-clad fans is not lost on the team.

"Big ups to all the people behind the scenes, selling it out, and getting the excitement here," said Shea. "I hope we can continue that excitement on the field."