In the last week speculation has increased that FC Dallas Attacking Midfielder Brek Shea, a standout of recent US Youth National teams and the 2008 MLS Combine has drawn the interest from Alex Ferguson of Manchester United. While this sounds glamorous, Shea would be just the latest youngster plucked from American shores by United in the last several years. The previous four, Jovan Kirovski, John Thorrington, Jonathan Spector and Kenny Cooper failed to develop the skill level and technical ability while in England that they needed to be as successful on the international level as they possibly could be given their perceived talent level. Shea’s performance at the Toulon Festival last month where he and Sammy Ochoa were the American standouts has United interested in him.
Should Shea move abroad, I would personally prefer he move to Holland or Germany during his development stage. Both leagues have better history with young American players than England whose notable flops include not only the players listed above, but Zac Whitebred who signed with Liverpool after the 2005 U-20 World Cup, Jemel Johnson who now plays League Two football after signing with Blackburn as a youngster, Johann Smith of Bolton whose two plus years in England have rendered him useless for the US setup, and Frank Simek now a Championship player after signing with Arsenal as a teen and not developing to Arsene Wenger’s satisfaction.
The English Premier League could be the best league in the world, but it is simply not the best league for developing young American talent. For whatever reason the Dutch and German leagues provide a more adaptable experience for young American starlets. If Shea does move to United let’s hope he can buck this trend.