He thrived in that environment, earning a trial with England’s Bolton Wanderers and eventually signing a Generation Adidas contract, becoming the second overall pick by FC Dallas in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.
“Playing in the MLS is – and was then – a breath of fresh air,” said Shea reflecting on his initial stint in the league. “This is the place where my career really began and I have such fond memories of my time in Dallas. It’s great to be back now after spending some time in Europe and seeing how much the league has grown and developed. I really am thrilled to be back in the MLS.”
After setting the league alight for four seasons, Shea left FC Dallas for a big money move to Premier League side Stoke City in 2013. Despite his obvious talents, Shea was beset by injury and quickly found first-team action difficult to come by at the Britannia Stadium.
The long, blonde haired winger then headed out on brief loan stints at Barnsley and Birmingham City, where he saw time in 14 games while performing in the Championship. Though his playing time was limited, Shea still managed to find success on the international stage, earning U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s trust and tapping home the eventual game winner in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup to give the Stars and Stripes their fifth tournament title.
Still unsettled abroad, Shea longed for a homecoming and soon managed to orchestrate a move back to MLS, returning stateside this past December to sign with expansion club Orlando City S.C. To the delight of the Orlando faithful, Shea – alongside Brazilian legend Kaka – arrived with enough firepower and name recognition to lend immediate legitimacy to an ambitious front office aiming to do more than just compete in their inaugural season.
The 25-year-old has been delighted with the way things are going in Orlando.
“If you were around the team, you would have no idea this was an expansion team,” he commented. “This is an extremely professional environment and everyone on our team is really buying in to what the gaffer (Adrian Heath) is trying to instill. The support we have in Orlando is ridiculous and I can’t wait to get out on the pitch.”
Shea’s first official match for Orlando City comes Sunday, in what should be a grand sporting spectacle at the Citrus Bowl, where a sold-out crowd of more than 60,000 fans will be in attendance for a match against another newcomer, New York City Football Club.
“I can’t wait,” said Shea of Sunday’s collision. “For an expansion team, in our first game of the season, to have that many fans – it’s incredible. It will be great for me personally, to be back in the league where I got my start, but more importantly, it will be a great representation of what this team means to the city of Orlando. It should be fun.”