Brek Shea is back and healthy for Orlando City, and, regardless of his pre-injury production, fans should be happy about that.
Throughout their summer-long slump, the Lions have been without one of their most technically skilled players in Shea, who suffered a sports hernia injury while on duty with the U.S. Men's National Team in June. Shea left Orlando's late-June game against the Colorado Rapids with the injury and wouldn't see the field again until last week against Sporting Kansas City, after undergoing surgery back in July.
But now he's back, he appears to be healthy again, and it couldn't come at a better time than with the Lions in the middle of the playoff hunt with just four games remaining in their inaugural MLS campaign.
One of the most debated issues this season has been where Orlando City should use Shea when he's healthy. Do you play him at left back, where Jurgen Klinsmann seems to prefer him for the USMNT, and where he's looked much more comfortable for the Lions this season? If you do, then that leaves Luke Boden, one of Orlando's better players this season, on the bench.
Do you push him up to his natural position on the left wing, where he did so much for Orlando City after Kevin Molino's injury and before his own? If you do, then you're sticking the explosive Carlos Rivas on the bench.
It's a tough question to answer, and it's not going to get easier over the final month of the season, with both Rivas and Boden playing particularly well at the moment.
For Orlando City, the best plan of attack might be the same plan they've used in each of the past two games -- keep Shea on the bench and use him as a late spark to the offense; and it's worked in each game, with Shea picking up an assist in both wins over Chicago and Sporting KC.
With Shea coming off of hernia surgery, Adrian Heath and the club need to be cautious with how they work him back into the lineup. I personally believe Orlando City's best move this winter will be moving Shea elsewhere because he really doesn't fit this roster, but if he's still here next March, that's an investment you want healthy and ready to be in the lineup.
There aren't many games left this season, so there's no need to get him as many minutes as possible before the final whistle blows on 2015.
Brek is a good player, and even if he doesn't quite fit in with this Orlando City squad, they're still a better team with him on the field than without him -- what, you'd rather have Eric Avila playing on the wings? Let's just be smart in how we use him.