FC Dallas waved bye bye Brek today, as the face, and hair, of the franchise completed his much anticipated move to Stoke City. Delighted Stoke fans were chanting USA – USA! as Shea left Stoke’s training ground today, and those supporters will have been pleased to hear that the American winger had no problem acquiring his work permit this afternoon in London.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis was enthusiastic in his evaluation of Shea’s talents yesterday in a statement released by the the club. Shea’s new manager said that, “Brek is a very, very exciting player, and one we believe could go on to become a very good player at the football club.” Pulis continued, “he has fantastic pace, a very good left foot and he is capable of scoring goals.”
It was those same attributes that brought Shea to the attention of U.S. national team coaches Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann. Bradley gave Shea his first full national team caps in 2010 and Klinsmann regularly selected Shea after he took the reins 2011.
Shea was a Generation adidas signing right out of high school, turning pro with Dallas after being selected in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Standing 6’3”, and sporting an array of eye catching hairstyles, Shea is never easy to overlook on the field. For a time though, there was something of a question of just where to look to find him. Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman played Shea variously on the wing, as a striker and even for a time as a center back.
Shea’s physical gifts quickly put the versatile young player on the transfer rumor market, and after a breakout season in 2011, his move abroad became a matter of when, not if. But as is often the case with young talents, Shea’s rise was not as smooth as envisioned.
As good as 2011 was for Shea, 2012 was that bad. Shea showed a petulant side, kicking a ball at an assistant referee, and on another occasion arguing with Hyndman, when the coach removed him from a game. Shea was suspended for three games for the first offense and was benched for two games for the latter. He was also part of the U23 U.S. team that failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Shea also fell out of the national team picture, although when he was recalled, he had a good moment when he played a role in setting up the only goal when the Americans beat Mexico for the first time ever in Mexico, last August.
Shea’s “annus horribilis” ended with foot surgery, but the new year is certainly starting on a better note with this move to the English Premiership. Stoke are often criticized for their playing style, generally described as, “robust.” Fellow American Geoff Cameron has adjusted nicely, slotting in as the Potters starting right fullback. Maurice Edu didn’t fare as well, seeing virtually no playing time, before securing a loan move to Turkey.
If Shea is healthy he could make a spot for himself in a Stoke lineup that is full of defensive midfield types, while not as deep in attacking wingers. Stoke fans aren’t the only interested parties in Shea’s move. The United States head into the last round of World Cup qualifiers next week, and wide play remains an issue for the Yanks. Klinsmann took another look at Josh Gatt versus Canada Tuesday night, and for all of his industry, Gatt remains raw.
In that same team statement Pulis said of Shea, “if you look at the clippings on the internet, then you will see what he is all about.” Assuming that Pulis doesn’t base his transfer policy solely on youtube clippings, Stoke and United States fans will hope Pulis was right when he said, “I believe he (Shea) has all the tools needed to be a success here.”
If Pulis is right, Shea may soon be racing past defenders not just for Stoke, but also for a U.S. team chasing a World Cup berth.