We've seen it in every game he's played for Orlando City.
That blonde streak coming up from the defense to chase down a through ball played to the corner. Yep, there goes Brek Shea again on one of his runs. That's just who he is as a player, a very offensive-minded fullback who jumps on every opportunity to join the rush. Is that a good thing though, tactically speaking? Before we can answer that question, let's take a look at the logistics behind that commitment.
Ideally, when a fullback breaks into the open field to add numbers to the offense, someone needs to stay behind. Four defenders need to hug midfield in case a counter attack materializes. There are two ways in which a rotation can do this. The first is the defensive midfielder who plays in front of the fullback in question dropping back to secure the line. In the past few games, the player who would do this is Servando Carrasco. On merit alone, Carrasco is a solid defender, which is handy when Shea makes his runs forward.
In the second option, let's say the defensive midfielder with Shea is also on the break. In situations like these, the defense can slide to the left, and the opposite midfielder can then drop back. This takes some communication, especially from your center backs -- usually any combination of Tommy Redding, Seb Hines, and David Mateos. They play an important role in this too as the focal points of the defense, seeing the field and barking orders at who needs to switch or rotate to cover.
Okay, the break is on. Kaká plays the ball to the corner and Brek is after it. With your fullback preparing to take the cross, this allows more offensive-minded players to get into better positions in the penalty area. Players like Cyle Larin, Júlio Baptista, Kaká, Kevin Molino, etc., are the players you want on the end of a crossing attempt or slick pass that sets up the shot. If Kaká is on the wing setting up the cross (mind you he's very good at that), you're losing a player that is rather good at finishing attempts. That's why on the opposite side you've seen Kevin Alston sneak into plays or Rafael Ramos before him. Let your fullback on the wing set it up for players who are very good at putting the ball in the net.
Besides crossing, does Shea add any elements to the offense? I'd argue he does.
Goal scoring isn't a fullback's first, second, or third job requirement, however, Shea has a pretty decent shot. He has that one highlight goal already this year and in 12 games has rattled off nine shots (two on goal even). Also, at 6-foot-3, he's a tall target on set pieces and corners. Add in his fitness levels and his hustle to get back to position -- usually as soon as the play has died -- and he exhibits a good portion of the skill level you'd want in a fullback who has an offensive flair.
From my point of view, I believe he's providing the best use of his skills to City at this time. As for his defensive merits, that's an article for another time. For now, I leave you with Brek's shining offensive moment so far this year; this is one hell of a goal.