A couple of years ago, Brek Shea was percolating through the minds of US soccer fans as
potentially “The American Gareth Bale.” At FC Dallas, he was a young, left-footed defender who seemed like a shoe-in to develop into the quality left winger the USMNT had been missing. But ever since Shea moved to Stoke City, Shea’s stock has dipped severely. Clearly not rated well by manager Mark Hughes, the Texan has seen sparing minutes for the Potters.

Good news though, as Shea will be moving to Birmingham City on an “emergency” loan for
three months. It’s not hard to imagine that this could be his final audition in England.
The talent is there, but so far he has wasted an excellent opportunity to develop into a perennial contributor to the USMNT.

Some of his actions have come across as sophomoric, let alone unprofessional. His previous loan stint at Barnsley was terminated because of an altercation with one of the club’s supporters. There was also the infamous picture of the pig’s head that went out on Twitter. A regular contributor that impresses the manager might get away with such behavior. But for a guy on the fringes of the squads he’s been on in England, these antics do nothing to help Shea’s cause.

Barnsley were relegated from the Championship after ending Shea’s loan. It’s the same fate that Birmingham City looks to avoid as they are near the bottom of the Championship table. It’s another golden opportunity for the 24-year old to earn minutes and prove his worth, whether to the Reds themselves or to scouts for other clubs. If the Birmingham City stint fails, the logical next step for Shea would be a return stateside. MLS
has been quite intentional about bringing back American internationals. I have little doubt his services would be valued in MLS.

And he seems to play his best soccer in the US. Whether for FC Dallas or in his rare
appearances for the USMNT (think his 2013 Gold Cup goals), it may just be a comfort problem. Perhaps Brek needs the home cooking.

Plenty of people make mistakes in their career, but there comes a point where you must learn from the lapses of judgment. It will be difficult, because reputations rarely vanish and there will be some who look to take advantage. But Shea is still young enough to reclaim the future everyone saw for him. It will take a new level of maturity and desire for him to earn his place, whether it be in Birmingham City’s plans, or for those of Jurgen Klinsmann.