David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and Rafael Márquez, there's been no shortage of European stars tempted Stateside in recent years, but as another MLS season draws to a close, the sustainability of clubs acquiring ageing big name players is in question, for a league still in its early stages of development.
The key to the MLS finding its feet and creating deep roots with the game comes with home grown talent, and for a country desperately seeking the next footballing American Idol, FC Dallas winger Brek Shea heads a growing list of exciting US prospects.
A product of the Bradenton elite Residency program in Florida, Shea is a 21-year-old versatile midfielder, who benefited from a schooling at one of the countries best academy setups. Now, after a break-through season with Dallas, the race is on to secure his signature.
There have been plenty of American starlets over the years, many of whom were simply over-hyped or pushed too far and too soon, such is the desire for the US to produce the next football superstar. But with Shea, who has had opportunities to head to Europe before, there looks to be tangible end product.
At six foot three inches tall, he began his career in defence, playing all over the back four, before being enticed into increasingly attacking berths. The Texan-born youngster now finds himself as a left winger, and despite occasional moves forward and back, its a role that best displays his array of talents.
The most noticeable of which is Shea's intelligence and instinct in the final third. He has a natural ability of drifting across his defending full back and into space between centre backs when without the ball, then with it, he has some neat foot work, balance, poise and can shift weight easily between legs to get himself out of trouble.
Shea is very much a modern winger, with a knack of cutting inside and following up shots, meaning a healthy goal tally from midfield. Other traits such as high speed dribbling, changing direction at pace and shooting from short and long range he does well, but its the old fashioned wing work that he must improve.
A move to Europe looks imminent, where Shea needs to work on the defensive side to his play, shielding the ball better and tracking back, while also final delivery on crosses, which is a little patchy and inconsistent at present.
That said, these are all things that can be tided up, when, not if, he's plucked from the MLS. A keen painter, Shea looks like he may well paint a trial for a new wave of American prospects to follow.Reuse content