Brek Shea has been one of the most polarizing figures in American soccer over the last few years.
Shea, who starred for FC Dallas in 2011 when he scored 11 goals, has had a rough go of it recently, but he has shown on occasion that he is still the player he once was when he first jumped on to the national team radar.
Now 24 and back at Stoke City as a result of a loan spell cut short at Barnsley because of an incident with the club's fans a week ago, Shea needs somewhere to play consistently.
Brek Shea's loan spell at Barnsley cut short after an incident with the club's fans, and he has returned to Stoke. http://t.co/Sx2sg0Hf13— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 10, 2014
Shea was getting time on the pitch for the Tykes, but he wasted that opportunity in a matter of seconds.
one person who was abusing a teammate I realize I should not have reacted in that way in the heat of the moment. I regret those actions and— Brek Shea (@BrekShea) March 7, 2014
the offense it has caused. I did not intend to offend the Barnsley fans who have shown tremendous support for the team. The best way I can— Brek Shea (@BrekShea) March 7, 2014
There is no doubt that the left winger has a chance to become one of the faces of the United States men's national team in time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but he also has the same odds of fading away and becoming a player that isn't mentioned in the national team conversation.
Shea's lasting impact with the Yanks came at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup as he scored the game-winning goal off of the bench in the final against Panama.
When he has appeared for the United States, Shea has been used as a substitute to provide a spark off the bench due to his lack of match fitness.
Shea, who has suffered the same fate at Stoke as Maurice Edu, needs a place to hone his craft and the Britannia Stadium is clearly not the place where that will happen.
If Shea were to become a consistent first-team member of the Potters' squad, it would've happened by now, like it has with defender Geoff Cameron.
A move down to the Championship, where other Americans like Tim Ream, Danny Williams and Eric Lichaj have found success, is a reasonable option but so would a move back to Major League Soccer.
As we saw in the first week of the 2014 MLS season, moving back to the States for potential national-team playing time was the right decision for players like Edu and Michael Parkhurst. The long-awaited debut of Michael Bradley for Toronto FC comes on Saturday.
Shea saw plenty of success as a young player with FC Dallas and the quality is there in the league for the 24-year-old to improve his play and catch the eye of United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
Moving back to MLS may actually be the best decision for Shea's national-team fate based on how poorly the European-based fringe players performed against Ukraine earlier this month.
It has been made clear by Klinsmann's selection process over the last few years that he is not afraid to give players in the MLS a chance to shine for the national team and that is what Shea will get if he moves back stateside.
While it may not be the best option in his mind at this point in his career, it would be wise of Shea to consider a move back home during the summer to resurrect a career that is beginning to go south fast.
There is no doubt that Shea will be coveted by many clubs in the league and if he performs well, he could even become a designated player in the near future. However, whether he is ready to cut his losses in Europe after two years into his overseas excursion remains to be seen.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.