There aren’t a lot of tall players with the gifts to play left back, but Brek Shea is attempting to bring all 6-foot-3 of himself to the position at an elite level.
Shea turns 25 later this month, and has returned home to Major League Soccer after a bizarre and unsuccessful odyssey abroad.
And after playing some left back for Jurgen Klinsmann in the United States’ pair of recent friendlies, Shea is also performing in that position with Adrian Heath’s Orlando City SC.
“I am definitely enjoying the position,” he said. “It is not new and yet it is at the same time. Obviously it’s my first time on the field with the guys and I still have to learn their tendencies but I think it was good and I really enjoy the way coach Adrian Heath wants the team to play.”
“I had several conversations with Jurgen about what he wanted me to do, although I don’t know what he has in mind in future,” Shea added. “But I feel it’s what I’m here to do—get forward and use my attacking ability as well as in the defensive role.”
Klinsmann was criticized for heaping defensive responsibility on Shea at left back, but the thought of him figuring out his game in that position is tantalizing. A giant of a man who can get forward and back, be an asset in the box on set pieces and retreat to tackle, too? That sounds quite wonderful.
That said, it’s easier said than done. Robbie Rogers has successfully negotiated the move from midfielder to back with the L.A. Galaxy. It’s reasonable to think Shea can become a solid weapon at left back for Orlando, but at the international level? Moreover, could he do it in a way that outperforms Greg Garza, Fabian Johnson and even Rogers?
It’s one of Klinsmann’s more interesting mad science experiments, but having Heath on board will help us get a much quicker feel for its chances of success.