MELBOURNE, Fla. – The great Brek Shea fullback experiment is over, at least for Orlando City SC.
The idea of the US men’s national team player being a left back has been firmly kicked to the curb under new head coach Jason Kreis, and Lions fans can expect to see a lot more of him as an attacking force in future.
Whether that translates into more international call-ups for the 26-year-old remains to be seen, but the message from Kreis has come through loud and clear: Shea will be looking to unlock opposing defenses at league level, not bolster the Lions'.
That was one of the biggest takeaways from Orlando’s Wednesday night friendly against Stoke City. The visiting English Premier League side emerged with a hard-fought 2-1 win, but not before Shea had been given the captain’s armband for the first 45 minutes in the absence of MLS All-Star Kaká, and played a notable tag-team style with Kevin Molino.
Shea and Molino started on the opposing flanks but switched sides at regular intervals to keep the Stoke defense guessing, and both players seemed to enjoy the freedom to go forward in a scoreless first 45 minutes.
And there was no disguising the delight from Shea afterwards, as he discussed the team’s first full outing under Kreis against the team he played for from 2013-14.
“He let me know he wants me to play there and I am really excited about that,” he insisted. “Hopefully we can get back to how I used to be and play like that.
“It was fun to play against old friends and former teammates and obviously it was our first chance to play under Jason, and I thought it was good.”
Despite having only two full training sessions with their new boss, it was clear the team are picking up on Kreis' message and style, and Shea acknowledged the players are eager to hear it.
“I think he has come in and taught us his way and we’re trying to learn every day,” he said. “I have certainly enjoyed it and I think the guys have taken to it really quickly and showed we can do it. Tonight it was a case of working on defensive stuff, defensive tactics – when to win the ball; when to press; when to sit, and obviously, that’s what we want to do going forward.
“He has only been here a few days so you can only pick up so much [at first]. But I think [the message was to] be more aggressive defensively, we can push forward more [as a defensive unit], and there are times when the ball gets trapped and you can win it and have more numbers going forward. We need to be a team defensively, though.”
One of the fringe players to catch the eye against Stoke was first-round SuperDraft pick Hadji Barry. The Guinea-born right winger and University of Central Florida alum grabbed Orlando’s goal and flashed some genuine skill in the attacking third.
Barry has figured in the starting lineup in successive games for the Lions, and Shea was full of praise for his 23-year-old rookie teammate.
“He has obviously started the last couple of games for the first team and he’s done really well and that’s given him the confidence to do more,” said Shea of Barry. “I think with any young player it can help to bring out the best in him and we’re seeing a player than can hopefully do that more often.”