Brek Shea has arguably been one of the most polarizing names on Orlando City’s squad since he debuted with the team back in 2015. From the moment he was introduced at a small art studio in downtown Orlando in December of 2014, Shea’s immense talent and potential have captured fans, leading many to dream of what could be for the former MLS MVP finalist in 2012.
But things have not quite gone as planned for Orlando City or Shea, who returned to the United States after a failed attempt to further his career in England. The former FC Dallas midfielder has scored just three goals for the Lions in two seasons, and fell off Jürgen Klinsmann’s radar with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
The 26-year-old looks like a shell of his former self, and there are a couple of factors to look at and place blame on. But it’s also worth asking: was Shea set up to fail at Orlando City?
Shea’s most valuable position on the field is the left side, higher up along in the attack. Orlando City, which came into MLS with what we thought was going to be a slew of attacking options that made it tough to fit in Shea along with Kaká, Carlos Rivas, and Kevin Molino in the attacking midfield. So naturally, Shea played left back.
This wasn’t the first time that Shea was asked to play on defense. He played left back in Dallas a small number of times, and after mentioning the transition as a possibility during Shea’s introductory press conference, former City Head Coach Adrian Heath started the experiment on Day 1.
But that’s not Shea’s best position, and the Lions have been paying him DP money (his salary has been paid down to fit under the DP tag) to play out of position, which ultimately defeats the purpose of having a once-lethal attacking player like Shea. Yes, Heath’s 4-2-3-1 system relied heavily on the fullbacks being able to overlap down the wings, which leans more towards Shea’s attacking abilities, but his defense was sub-par and basically limiting his chances to get forward by playing much further down the field has made the defensive lapses much easier to spot.
During his days in Dallas, Shea could typically be seen playing at his best more centrally and further up the field. His ability to distract center backs and sneak in through the back line made him one of the most dangerous wingers in the league. Very rarely has he been afforded that opportunity in Orlando.
Shea once was — and still can be — a viable scoring and attacking threat, but the way he’s been used in Orlando — and the system he’s been put in altogether — has made it tough for Shea to get back to the form he was in when Stoke City ultimately bought him in 2012.
It’s not all Shea’s fault that he’s been disappointing with Orlando City, he’s just been put in a tough spot from the beginning.