BY CHRISTIAN ARAOS
Staff Writer, EoS
Brek Shea got what he wanted in moving to Stoke City. His relationship with FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman had soured and it was clear that he wasn’t going to go through another season in Texas. Given the need to sell and MLS’ initial stubbornness, getting roughly $4 million for Shea is a good deal.
Now it is up to Shea to mature into a player that can perform at the next level.
Shea, who turns 23 at the end of the month, finally settled down as a “left winger” for Dallas, but he was put in an atypical position for much of last year. He basically led the line from that position, often times featuring as Dallas’ most advanced player on the attack. The result was as bad as it could be as Shea grew out of form and Dallas missed out on the playoffs.
While Shea is a very athletic player for someone his size, he is also very raw which makes perfect sense when a player bounces around from centerback, to left back to striker to left wing throughout a four year span.
What has Stoke sold on Shea is potential. Whether it’s a 40-yard shot in Toronto or a nutmeg and cutback in Mexico City, he is a player who will always draw attention when he sets foot on the field. Just don’t be too surprised if that does not happen much right away.
The main challenge for Shea is to get up to pace with the physicality and athleticism needed to play in the Premier League. He needs to put some muscle on and be stronger on the ball. Fortunately for him, training against the extremely physical defenders that Stoke have will provide the crash course needed to deal with burly defenders in England on a daily basis.
He also needs some fine tuning on his technical game. No one is expecting him to immediately step onto the field at the Britannia and produce the YouTube worthy goals he did with Dallas. However, the expectation, as stated from Jurgen Klinsmann in the Wall Street Journal, is to keep pushing to the next level. In order to do that, Shea is going to have to consistently show an ability to roam the left wing with not just pace, but control. This means developing the soccer equivalent of “soft hands” by improving his first touch. Having a heavy first touch is the easiest way to lose possession in the EPL and for a team that looks to make the most of it’s limited possession, it is a problem that can have you fall out of favor quickly (see Maurice Edu).
While his touch is far from perfect, Shea’s crossing ability is something that can make him an instant asset. Case in point: his two assists in stoppage time for Dallas in their dramatic 3-2 win at Sporting Kansas City.
Stoke have always been a direct team going forward, but ironically they only average just over 7 crosses a game (fifth worst in the EPL). Shea’s ability to provide from out wide with his left foot will boost that figure and with target strikers in Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones, his service will be greatly welcomed.
Whether or not all of Shea’s body of work is welcomed is something we will see over the length of his 4.5 year contract.