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2016 Orlando City Season in Review: Brek Shea

The midfielder-turned-defender turned back to midfielder in ’16. How did he fare in year two in purple?

MLS: Orlando City SC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After a 2015 season spent vacillating between defense and attack, Brek Shea entered 2016 once again slotted at the left back position under former Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. While injuries were the primary reason that the 6-foot-4 Shea switched between left back and midfield last year, this year’s switch was made permanently after Jason Kreis was appointed to lead the Lions following Heath’s dismissal.

While Shea was always a work in progress at fullback and slots more naturally into midfield due to his attacking mindset and technical ability, the addition of Matías Pérez García in August meant that the Texan had stiff competition to start in the attacking midfield alongside mainstays Kevin Molino and Kaká. After finishing 2015 on a strong note, he faded toward the end of the ’16 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Shea saw 11 appearances on the back line for City this season, and his raw numbers were largely similar to 2015. Averaging 1.6 tackles per game (1.3 in 2015), 1.3 interceptions (1.5), and 1.3 clearances (1.1) per match put him either just above or below his previous averages in those categories. However, despite possessing rare athleticism for his size and the ability to cover acres of space up and down the left flank thanks to his long stride and endurance, Shea never quite settled in as a fullback and his so-so performances at the back prompted Kreis to shift him forward and end the defensive experiment.

Offensively, Shea’s passing accuracy was down from a season ago, completing 74.1% of his passes with 0.6 key passes per match, also slightly down. Shea was more productive overall, though, scoring three goals (he had 0 the year before) and adding two assists. His screamer against Portland was one of the best goals in MLS all season and was a flash of what Shea is capable of, however inconsistently we may see that capability on display.

Shea played 2,003 minutes on the year – over 500 more than ’15 – and his shooting numbers reflected that. He fired 27 shots (up 56%), nine of which were on target (up 88%) and, as mentioned above, three of those found the net.

Best Game

Despite not being the ideal left back during his nearly two-year trial there, Shea’s best full outing of 2016 was probably against Portland playing at the back.

Shea was everywhere on the left side of the field, playing a beautiful one-two with Kaká on his stellar goal and getting forward to provide width often. He was also able to track back effectively and kept Portland from hitting on the counter. It was a banner outing in a dominant 4-1 win.

Shea also had solid outings as a sub against New England in late July and LA in September, although the spark he provided against the Galaxy came after the game was in hand for LA.

2016 Final Rating

The Mane Land staff settled on a 5.5 for Brek is 2016. He wasn’t bad in defense, but he was far from great, and although his shooting and scoring numbers were up, he really didn’t make much of an impact up front following the addition of MPG, who figures to be more of a mainstay in the attacking midfield next season than Shea.

2017 Outlook

Things didn’t end on a very encouraging note for Shea, as he failed to appear in any of Orlando City’s final three games in the month of October, although an injury played a role in that. MPG established a clear chemistry with Molino and Kaká that elevated the dangerous Lions attack even more, so it seems that he’s in pole position to start going forward under Kreis. If Shea is left on the outside looking in, it could very well mean the end of his days with the club, as his $595,000 salary ranks third on the team behind only Kaká and Antonio Nocerino, and is far too expensive to justify keeping him as a bit-part player who hasn’t produced many goals in his two seasons.