Shea the latest name in Fulham’s American connection

When Brek Shea came off the bench in the 24th minute against Fulham last week, he became the 38th American to play in the Premier League. It is perhaps fitting that Shea’s debut came at Craven Cottage, the ground where the USA’s finest outfield product to grace the Premier League made his name.

Shea the latest name in Fulham’s American connection

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March 4th, 2013

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Clint Dempsey is of course a Tottenham Hotspur player now; but it was in the white of Fulham that he first proved on a consistent basis that the Americans are much more than a bunch of fine goalkeepers. America has provided an above average number of goalkeepers for the Premier League with Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, Kasey Keller and Marcus Hahnemann playing more than 100 times in the top flight.

Shea is potentially the first youngster to be given a chance in the Premier League at an early age; rather than having to constantly prove themselves elsewhere. Dempsey was 24 when he joined Fulham. Landon Donovan first joined Everton at 28.

Perhaps Shea’s signing is an indication of a slowing closing gap in quality between North American football and the major European leagues. More significantly, it’s a sign that the academies in the United States of America are starting to produce young players that are catching the attention of the Premier League.

Shea was a player that Sir Alex Ferguson thought highly enough of to comment on a few years ago and more recently, he has trained with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal squad. Two years ago at the age of just 20, he made a real impact on Major League Soccer and was one of three players shortlisted for the end of season Most Valuable Player award.

Thankfully for Stoke, Brek is a thorough bread left-winger that will compliment their style nicely. He is a big boy with good control, a desire to run at defenders and enough composure to finish well. He scoring abilities were such that FC Dallas toyed around with using him as a centre forward at times. In truth, he is much more comfortable when given the chance to run at goal rather than trying to operate with his back to it. Since his fine run in MLS back in 2011; he’s been a regular in the US national team squad.

Last year won’t be remembered as a great one for Shea. He struggled thanks to a mix of injury, youthful yearning to repeat his previous feats and rival teams knowing that he needed to be stopped. However, it was always obvious that he deserved an opportunity to play a bigger stage. The Premier League with Stoke City is that bigger stage.

For Stoke, the move is a good one. They’ve got themselves a player full of potential and with a well-known desire to improve himself. Plus at just 21, he’ll retain plenty of his resale value even if things don’t go to plan. Of course, it’s far more likely than the Potters will be looked back on as the first home on Brek Shea’s fine career in the English game.

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