Over the past two years, Brek Shea has become one of the most divisive figures among United States men’s national team fans.
On the one hand, Shea can be a blunt-force instrument capable of creating or scoring late goals, as he did for the U.S. against Mexico in 2011 and 2012 and as he did twice in the U.S.’ Gold Cup run this summer.
On the other hand, Shea can be brutally frustrating to watch with his poor first touch, erratic service and shooting and questionable possession skills.
So, heading into this year’s 2013-14 English Premier League campaign with Stoke City, here are five goals that should be at the top of the list for the American winger.
Sadly, after a 2012-13 campaign beset by injuries, Shea is back on the training table. In a friendly last week between Stoke City and Philadelphia Union, Union midfielder Matt Kassel tackled Shea resulting in a torn MCL.
Shea is expected to be out at least four weeks as he recovers from this latest setback.
Gain Mark Hughes' Trust
It is always difficult for players when a new manager comes in, having to gain their trust and prove oneself worthy of playing time.
Some would argue this is even more difficult for American players, who still seem to have a bias against them as footballers. For example, despite always being one of Fulham’s best players, Clint Dempsey repeatedly lost, and had to regain, his starting position every time Fulham experienced a coaching change.
Shea, after more than his fair share of ups and downs over the past year, will have to earn the trust of former Manchester United legend Mark Hughes’ to find himself on the teamsheet on gameday.
Earn Some Playing Time
After undergoing foot surgery at the end of 2012, Shea made the move to Stoke in January. Still recovering from that injury, Sky Sports reports that then-Stoke manager Tony Pulis insisted that Shea was always meant to be a signing for the 2013-14 season and not the current season. Shea only saw two appearances with the club, both off the bench, in 2013.
If Shea hopes to make any improvements to his game, as well as increase his chances of making the U.S.’ 2014 World Cup squad, he needs to get on the field.
Regain His 2011 Form
Love him or hate him, Shea has always been capable of producing brilliant moments on the field. In 2011, he produced several Goal of the Week nominees and finished tied for ninth in Major League Soccer with 11 goals on the year.
Since then, it has always been flashes of his old self as he struggled with FC Dallas in 2012 before his move to Stoke in January 2013. If he can find a good run of form again this season, the sky’s the limit.
Refine his Game
Despite all of his natural gifts, Shea needs some major improvements to the technical side of his game to become a true top-level performer. He is blessed with speed, height, strength and an unwavering confidence on the dribble, but he needs to refine his service into the box, his shooting accuracy, his first touch and his ability to hold possession of the ball.
If he can improve these, he will not only be able to help Stoke this season, but he will become a much better asset for the USMNT as well.
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