Shea recently turned 22 years old and he already finds himself playing consistent minutes under Jurgen Klinsmann on the U.S. men's squad.
Following just his second professional season, Shea trained under legendary coach Arsene Wenger during the MLS offseason. The 22-year-old didn't impress enough to get a contract offer from one of the biggest clubs in Europe, but he gained valuable experience.
“He’s one of our biggest young talents we have. We want to build him slowly. We don’t want to overshoot him, but he’s special," Klinsmann said following the USA's 1-0 win over Italy on Wednesday. "That’s why at the end of last season, I sent him to Arsenal and to Arsene Wenger, my former coach, so he could have him for three weeks to learn."
Shea is the only American to play in all 10 games since Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley back in July. He also stars for the U-23 team and should be a key piece to the Olympic squad should the team make it to London this summer.
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Earlier this week, the midfielder left the U-23 team as it prepared for an Olympic qualifying warmup against Mexico to fill in as an injury replacement on the men's team. Instead of competing against a U-23 squad on Wednesday, Shea played against in a 1-0 match sixth-ranked Italy in what ended up becoming one the United States' biggest wins ever.
"Brek knows that he has a lot to learn still. If we hadn’t had a couple of injuries happening before the game he would have played against Mexico with the Under-23s, but I had to call him in – I was running out of players," Klinsmann explained.
Shea found himself starting against the Italians alongside European-based players Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. He played 76 minutes before being subbed off for Sacha Kljestan.
"For him, having time in a game like that teaches him a lot, and we have the goal of building him one step at a time, but he’s definitely a player that we will see grow over the next one or two years," Klinsmann said. That’s why we build him. We just really want to introduce him to these types of games so he has a chance to grow. It’s a growth period that is not going to happen overnight.”