What can ex-MLS players offer the Premier League?

by James Kilpatrick

Brek Shea

It is clear that in the January transfer window just passed that there has been a distinct increase in the number of players who have moved across the pond to ply their trade in the Barclays Premier League. The increasing demand for players who can make an instant impact for low cut prices have led many mid – level Premier League teams to scour the globe for talent with one particular hotbed exploited being Major League Soccer.

The likelihood for this is most likely due to the common perception of MLS as a very fast, physical league which of course correlates with the Premier League in its style. The fact that the same language is shared and the prices of the players, who tend to be on low wages due to the salary cap in USA, are also other factors which would have definitely been considered.

US international Geoff Cameron is evidence of a player who has slotted into Stoke City’s backline perfectly. Honduran Roger Espinoza has already got off to a bright start as well at Wigan; his man of the match performance at the Britannia last week drew many plaudits with his two crucial assists in gaining a hard fought point for the Latics. With two ex-MLS’ers already getting off to such a strong start, how will the likes of Kei Kamara, Simon Dawkins and Brek Shea slot in at their respective clubs? Let’s have a little look shall we?

Simon Dawkins – Tottenham to Aston Villa (loan)

Dawkins was one of the last signings to take place on a dramatic deadline day. The Englishman has played his last two seasons in the MLS for the San Jose Earthquakes where he was a regular feature for the 2012 Supporters Shield winners, scoring 14 goals in 53 appearances. Dawkins is renowned for his pace and dribbling ability; he has a great tendency to cut inside onto his preferred right foot and shoot with power and could add goals to a side who so desperately crave it. However, his delivery of a ball is relatively average, only 3 assists in both seasons and can occasionally make very little contribution to matches.

At Aston Villa, he would play on the left hand side although he arrives in the Midlands facing stiff competition from the likes of Gabby Agbonlahor and Charles N’Zogbia. It is also questionable if Dawkins will get a regular run in the side, and if he can really play at a Premier League level when he has not made a single appearance for Tottenham. He will most likely be a rotation option but could be a solid impact player off the bench.

Kei Kamara – Sporting Kansas City to Norwich City (loan)

Known for his wacky celebrations and vibrant nature, Kei Kamara has been the centre-piece for Sporting Kansas City for the last three seasons. The Sierra Leone International has banged in 31 goals in 98 appearances for the Kansas side where he is predominantly a right winger. He scored career high 11 goals for Sporting last season and has 18 assists to his name. Kamara possesses a number of strong attributes, he is a player with electric pace and good dribbling ability, he can put in a good cross, he is strong aerially and should be a threat from set-pieces at Norwich. Although he does have a decent goalscoring record, he can be wasteful with opportunities; he had the highest number of shots last season in the MLS with 134 attempts, and only 49 on target, resulting in a scoring chance percentage of 8.2%. Not a stat which will necessarily encourage Norwich supporters when goals are already at a premium from their front men.

It is unlikely that Kamara will play in a central striker role for Norwich due to the competition already there such as Grant Holt, Anthony Pilkington and the deadline day acquisition of Luciano Becchio. If Chris Hughton is willing to play Kamara in his naturally suited wide right position then the Norwich manager will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

Brek Shea – FC Dallas to Stoke City (2.8 Million)

This deal has the potential to be the transfer of the window. As little as two years ago, Brek Shea was touted to be the next big thing in the States since Landon Donovan. The US international left winger’s size at 6′ 3″ has drawn comparisons between him and Gareth Bale and the resemblance is justified. The Texas native was an MVP finalist in 2011, named in the MLS All-Star team and led FC Dallas in goals with 11 goals with five of them being game winners. He also contributed 4 assists in the same season. Shea had drawn heavy interest from Arsenal in December 2011 where he went on trial but was unfortunately unsuccessful. Shea proved in that year that he easily has the ability to play in Europe.

2012 was a poor year for him though, the season got off to a rocky start after the US Olympic U-23 qualifying humiliation where they didn’t even get out of the group. Returning to Dallas frustrated, Shea was relatively unproductive, scoring 3 goals and 2 assists in 21 appearances. His season deteriorated even further when he picked up an injury which he is still recovering from, resulting in his season cut short by 6 months. Shea also showed signs of a poor temperament, with regular disagreements between him and head Coach Schellas Hyndman, and was sent off for kicking a ball at the referee. A move to Europe certainly did not look on the cards.

Stoke have taken the gamble though. At a bargain fee of only £2.8 million, Stoke have got themselves a player who is extremely quick, technically proficient and has great upper body strength. Characteristics which Tony Pulis will undoubtedly be pleased with. Shea, once he has his visa and has returned from injury, should play a regular role at Stoke at left midfield and thrive in that position, making driving runs from deep. The higher level of competition for Shea will certainly do his international chances no harm either. If you want a man who can revive a career, then Tony Pulis’ policy of tough love should certainly iron out any temperamental issues and help revitalise and mould Shea into an excellent player which he was once already destined to be not so long ago.

All three players have the opportunity to make a strong impact in the Premier League, the question is, which player will grab their chance and run with it furthest? My opinion? Brek Shea.