Brek Shea must move from Stoke City in January

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A year ago, Brek Shea was a commodity. He wasn’t some world-beater that year at FC Dallas; his 2012 campaign had been far south of fruitful. But some of that was about injury, and some was about a bad season all around for the denizens of FC Dallas Stadium.

Through it all, Shea was still getting national team attention, and he was still considered young enough to have words like “prospect” and “upside” and “potential” firmly attached to his resume.

A year later, his stock is squarely on the wane, his chances of landing on the U.S. World Cup roster in the balance, his estimation in Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind having taken a big hit.

He’s still in the game – and a lot of that is about a relative lack of options on the U.S. flanks. But same difference as “opportunity factor” goes – so this thing could still swing either way.

What’s the difference in the last 11 months, when Shea went from “critical commodity” to “product in decline?” He moved to Stoke City … and then promptly disappeared.

(MORE: What we learned from Tuesday’s match against Austria)

How much of that was about ongoing injury? Some, perhaps. But it’s also about moving to a place that probably wasn’t the best spot for him in the first place. A lot of us wondered about that before the papers were signed. Klinsmann certainly did. But youth being youth, the Premier League being the bright, shiny object it is, Shea went for it. He took the offer and, well, here we are.

Klinsmann has tossed the young Texas (he’s still just 23, so plenty of good years left) yet another lifeline with the recent call-up, with the sub appearance against Scotland and Tuesday’s start against Austria.

The results were a mixed bag; promising last Friday, forgettable on Tuesday. It on Shea now to somehow keep the curve pointed upward. And the best way to do that: make a January move.

It could be asking for an outright transfer. Or even if it’s just on loan, Shea must begin playing. Somewhere! Because at Britannia, Shea has played as many first-team minutes this year as ProSoccerTalk colleague Richard Farley! And that is not good.

It’s true, Shea hasn’t spent a minute on the field this year for Stoke City’s first team. And as we’re not far out of December, that is not a good thing.

We saw it again on Tuesday. His touch is OK, but not international caliber sharp. His positioning is suffering from inactivity, tentative rather than confidently aggressive and instinctive. His chemistry with left back DaMarcus Beasley was non-existent. And none of that will get any better if he’s not playing for manager Mark Hughes at Stoke.

If the writing isn’t on the wall at Stoke, it’s not far from it. Something went wrong there somewhere along the way. At this point, the “what” the “why” and the “wherefores” don’t matter. He’s wasting away, languishing in the reserves, and he needs to get moving.

His World Cup chances may well depend on it.

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(MORE: U.S. finishes 2013 with a 1-0 loss to Austria)