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Brek Shea continuing to grow at left back for USMNT, Orlando City

Brek Shea Orlando City (USA TODAY Sports)

photo by Kim Klement/USA Today Sports


ORLANDO — The general consensus was that Brek Shea had a good week last week. He scored a wicked free kick goal for country, put in a solid shift at left back, and then returned to his club to deliver another impressive outing.

Shea did not see it that way, however. Far from it, in fact.

After suffering a gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat to D.C. United on Friday, Shea was left frustrated despite delivering his latest encouraging performance at left back. The veteran was tired of seeing his teams concede late, especially after it happened over and over and over again in the last three weeks.

First was in Orlando City’s 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Then, at the international level in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 3-2 meltdown vs. Denmark. Again in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland, and finally in Friday’s disappointment at the Citrus Bowl.

“I think the past 2-3 weeks have been very frustrating for me, for Orlando and I think for the national team,” Shea told SBI. “Vancouver, we outplayed them, today (vs. D.C.) we dominated. I don’t know if it looked like that from the sideline, but I feel like we destroyed them. They probably had two chances on the goal the entire game.

“Versus Switzerland, we dominated them, especially in the first half until we had a red card. We dominated them, we don’t come away with a win. Denmark, leading 2-1 in the 80th minute and we lose, 3-2. The last few games I’ve been in has been very frustrating for me and for both teams.”

Things may not have been going according to plan from a collective point of view, but Shea himself has made significant strides in his transition to left back. In the March 31 start vs. Switzerland, Shea was as solid defensively as he has been since sliding back from midfield into the defensive role and he scored a gorgeous free-kick goal to boot.

The 25-year-old Shea – who seems to be coming into his own as a professional on and off the field – followed that up with another strong showing at left back against D.C. United. Though Shea faded a bit in the second half, he was downright dominant in the opening stanza, terrorizing midfielder Nick DeLeon and fullback Sean Franklin before D.C. coach Ben Olsen replaced DeLeon at halftime.

Cross after cross came in off the left foot of Shea in those opening 45 minutes, and they were all good ones. It was marked improvement from a player who in the past would often dribble himself into trouble, and one who sounds as if he has embraced what his new position has to offer.

“I’m not a traditional left back, I don’t think. I don’t play by the rules, obviously,” said Shea. “I kind of sneak way forward at times I probably shouldn’t, but at the same time I don’t feel like there’s a threat down my area. Also, if I do feel like there’s a threat, I’m not going to go forward, but I feel like if I have the right mid worried about me going forward the whole time, I don’t have to worry about him going forward.

“As long as we have the ball, like we do most games, he’s more worried about me than I am him.”

Shea contributed quite a bit to Orlando City’s attack in that MLS game, but his biggest play came on the defensive side. In the 68th minute after allowing Sean Franklin to race in behind him, Shea showed good awareness to place himself on the goal line in case a shot made its way past onrushing goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

One by Chris Pontius did get past a fallen Ricketts, but Shea was there to react and flick the ball away from danger.

“Honestly, I’ve been very happy with his work and we’re moving forward,” said Orlando centerback Aurelien Collin before talking about Shea’s goal on the international level. “Everybody was very happy for him, everybody congratulated him. That was beautiful for the country of the United States.”

So beautiful in fact that it caught many observers by surprise. Shea has not been known in his career for taking free kicks – especially ones as well-struck as the one in Switzerland – but it is something he has been working on as of late in an effort to further enhance his game and ability to use his potent left foot.

“I’d been working on them lately. It started in January camp, really focusing on them,” said Shea. “I got a lot of tips from a lot of people, from Jozy Altidore to Andi Herzog to, obviously, Ricky Kaka. I’ve been just watching and asking for me to go out and attempt it. To score is obviously a good feeling.”

Free kick goal aside, Shea is looking more and more like the player that was dominating MLS before making an unsuccessful move to Stoke City. He might not be the menacing left winger he once was, but he is now more polished and versatile, capable to play well both in the midfield and at left back.

“They’re both familiar to me now,” said Shea. “I think I’m pretty comfortable at left back, but playing both international and here it obviously helps because I get that experience playing at the top level and here, playing week in and week out.”


  1. The truth of the matter is that Left sided players (especially defenders) seem to be the hardest to fill on any team. LM is often filled by a right footed player who’ll cut inside, but can use their left a little. There has been a number of players used over the years at Left Wing back who were previously midfielders. B. Bradley tried it with DMB in the furn up to the 2010 WC without success. Nearly 4 years later JK used DMB and it worked. Shea is just the next installment of fielding a LM at LB. So long as Shea isn’t expected to be a stay at home defender, he should find a measure of success at LB. Reps with his club will help as will a scheme where the LM and/or the CDM assists in the defensive duties. Pairing Shea & Fabian on the Left side should make it difficult for our opponents (esp. CONCACAF teams) to over-run that side.
    Hopefully Chandler/Yedlin and the RM will be able to do the same. Funneling the competitions attack though a clogged middle where Bradly/Jones/Cameron/Williams/Morales can cut out the lanes and reverse possession.

  2. I think JK deserves a lot of credit for this, Shea wasn’t good enough to be an out and out winger but he does have skill, speed and size. JK showed trust in him gave him confidence and now Shea has bought in and now we have with him and Yedlin two young talents at our RB and LB positions that can provide attacking support.

  3. Honestly i’m just curious here but two 25yo US players have recently “failed” in Europe but yet one is being supported now and one is still hated and I can’t figure out why, lol.

    • A lot of people love to hate Jozy because they like to point out that US cannot produce forwards or he is not good enough. Truth he is a good pro. He hardly failed in Europe. He did quite well in the Netherlands. He did not play much at Villa Real, but he was 19-20 years old and they were they were the 3rd best team in Spain (a more technical league than England though slower).

    • I think Shea has had his fair amount of hated direct towards him. Just a couple months ago people thought Klinsmann was crazy for even having Shea in the team.

    • Too much “hater” talk here. What I mean is that, Anthony, just because you think someone is good and someone else disagrees with your assessment does not make them a “hater”.

      It is not fair to say Jozy failed in Europe, but it is fair to say he failed in the EPL.

      Davis, my only guess to answer your question is that Jozy actually got playing time and Shea didn’t. So people probably rationalize it as something like “Shea didn’t get much of a chance”, but “Altidore got his chance and couldn’t hack it”.

      • Another factor is not as much is expected of Shea really. While perhaps it shouldn’t matter Altidore is returning MLS on a DP contract making probably 10 times whats Shea is.

    • DLOA,

      Jozy and Brek both have had their ups and downs at their respective clubs.

      F++k Stoke and Sunderland. All I care about is the USMNT.

      Jozy proved his worth for the US a long time ago and there is every reason to suspect he will even better going forward.

      Brek does not have Jozy’s track record but he might be even better for the US than Jozy going forward.

      They both have the physical talent, the athleticism and the skills to be successful.

      So whatever JK has been doing with those two to keep them happy and to keep their heads on straight with the US I hope he continues to do it.

    • Thanks guys for the honest thoughts. I’m glad this didn’t turn into an insult fest with the likes of slowleftarm, delgriffin, old school and rob. Lol.

      Your points all make sense too (except UCB– bruins making sense is an oxymoron lol).

      UCB, in all seriousness u make a good point. Which makes me wonder had their Europe careers been exactly the inverse would the sentiments remain the same? Had brek dominated at AZ but not done as well elsewhere and had jozy barely made the 18 at stoke and been involved with “finger gate” with a championship team, would people still say jozy was the bigger failure?

      Again I don’t have any answers just kinda realized this today when reading all of the positive things being said about brek when not too long ago people were calling him “done”. I guess I just find it all interesting. To add, if I read a stat sheet on each player but never mentioned the names which would people welcome to our national team etc? just an interesting occurrence.

      Cheers to all.

      For the record, I’ve long been a huge fan of both. If it were up to me, brek, jozy and gyau would be starting up top in a 433 🙂

  4. Kaka’s quality is evident. Shea was very good. Orlando should have come away with at least a point, if not the win. But they will have to mature and acquire a few more pieces — like a quality striker — before they “dominate” anyone. And I don’t think they dominated DCU.

  5. How can you not root for this guy?
    It shows that coaches want him on the field because they slot him in everywhere.
    Power to you man!

    Keep it up!

      • It’s true, I’ve been critical of Shea in the past and couldn’t see why JK kept calling him in. I still think Garza is a better LB despite his poor showing v. Denmark. But, if those two guys and others can compete for the spot and add depth at a position that has been a difficult one to fill, it’s all good. You’d have to be pretty short-sighted not to support a player who may actually be improving his game.

      • His real name is Ricardo. He has a younger brother or nephew that couldn’t pronounce his name well and so called him “Kaka”. The name stuck but it makes sense that he goes by Ricky.

    • His name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite. He got the nickname Kaka because his little brother (Digao, who played for NYRB) couldn’t say Ricardo when he was a little boy.

      If he were to introduce himself to you, he would say his name is Ricky.


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