Brek Shea is healthy. He's played every minute of Orlando City's first three matches. So why does it feel like we've hardly seen him? The man is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, and has a very nice blend of athleticism and skill for goodness sake. It shouldn't be that hard to find him! Was he really not doing much, or is it just a feeling? Let's take a look.
March 6, 2016 - vs. Real Salt Lake
With Kaká out, Head Coach Adrian Heath moved Brek up to the left wing to start the match. Shea patrolled his side of the field, but didn't seem to be very involved. Once Darwin Cerén went out on a red card, he was shifted into a more defensive position, though he still pushed forward as he is wont to do in most games. While on defense he did clear out a Real Salt Lake corner kick. In stoppage time in the first half, he took a nice shot that went just wide of the far post. He then took another shot in the 49th minute of the second half; it was on goal, but was unfortunately deflected. In the 74th minute, he delivered a poor cross that amounted to nothing. Shea would make up for that in stoppage time, as it was his pass to Cyle Larin that led to the first goal of the amazing comeback.
March 11, 2016 - vs. Chicago Fire
In the second game, Heath moved Brek back to left back. Once again, Shea pushed forward and drew the harsh foul that resulted in a red card for Michael Harrington. He also had a missed opportunity on a corner kick, when the ball just got away from him. On defense, he was neither brilliant nor horrible. He was beaten by Johan Kappelhof, who passed the ball across the goal to David Accam, who fortunately did not score to give the Fire a 2-1 advantage. Back on the offensive side of the field, he made an excellent cross to Kevin Molino, but Molino was taken down and what could have been called a penalty went unrewarded. She also took a free kick just outside the penalty box, but he wasn't able to get it up over the wall. Overall, it was a mixed bag in a lackluster 1-1 draw for City.
March 18, 2016 - New York City FC
Shea again was slotted in at left back in the Bronx. This was his poorest performance, but to be fair, NYCFC was relentless in their attacking. He was able to shut down Khiry Shelton, but he was not as effective defending the corner kick in the 17th minute -- playing at the top of the box, Mix Diskerud was able to sneak in behind him. Again, Orlando City was fortunate it didn't result in a goal thanks to a save from Joe Bendik. Shea committed a completely unnecessary foul on Federico Bravo -- he got there late, but certainly should have known better and was lucky to avoid a card. He did draw the foul for a yellow card on Tony Taylor. Brek seemed to be a bit sloppy all night, though he was there to defend a David Villa bicycle kick, even if the Spaniard didn't manage to put it on goal.
It's a bit odd, isn't it? Last year, Shea was hurt, he was called up to the U.S. national team, and yet it seemed like he was everywhere. Last year, he seemed to provide a spark, creating chances for the team. This year, it feels like we've hardly seen him, despite the Texan playing every minute of the season so far.
We can look back at the matches again and realize that he had been doing what he usually does. He's playing wherever there is a need, moving up from left back to left wing and back again to do his part. When he's playing defense he still pushes forward, giving the opposition something to think about. It's just that it feels different. Perhaps when Kaká returns it will open up the left side, allowing Brek to show us that spark again. Fortunately, the season is young, and we have time for Brek to find his impactful form once again.