Orlando City was devastated by the news that star midfielder Kevin Molino suffered a torn ACL during the club’s friendly Saturday night against Brazilian Série A side Ponte Preta. But the silver lining of the unfortunate incident is that fans got to see the electric duo of Luke Boden and Brek Shea playing together on the left - and it’s a partnership that may carry over into future league games.
While many fans and media have speculated about a Shea-Boden partnership, it was never a serious consideration from the coaches. “We wouldn’t have looked at it prior to the game,” Heath says about playing Shea in the midfield. “Until Kevin got injured, we weren’t even going to play Brek (on Saturday).”
But Heath recognizes that this is a partnership that many have been interested in seeing. “We put him ahead of Bodz (against Ponte Preta) and let Bodz stay on the field and all of the sudden you’re looking at something that I know people have spoken about.”
It seems like a natural move for Heath to make. 21-year-old speedster Carlos Rivas was supposed to fill the left midfield slot, but injuries have forced Heath to shuffle his lineup and play some players out of their natural position. However, with the successful trial Saturday night, the temptation to play Shea and Boden together may be too much to bear.
After all, it’s not as if Shea hasn’t had experience at left midfield. The 25-year-old made his professional debut for FC Dallas in 2008 and five years later was bought by English Premier League side Stoke City playing the position almost exclusively. Upon his arrival in Orlando in December, Heath decided to move him to left back, the position once occupied by another former left midfielder, Boden.
After receiving high grades at FC Dallas, Shea made his international debut on October 12, 2010. When Jürgen Klinsmann took over the national team in August 2011, Shea became his regular left midfielder. To date, Shea has made 32 appearances for the U.S. national team. of those 28 as a left midfielder.
As for Boden’s capabilities at left back, there’s little question that he can do the job behind Shea. After arriving in Orlando in January 2011, Boden made the same move as Shea, shifting from left midfield to left back. Over the next four years, Boden would become a stalwart in Orlando’s defense starting nearly every game the club played in USL Pro.
The test of whether Boden could play at the higher level of MLS was answered on March 28, just four weeks into the season. With Shea gone on international duty, Boden was left to man the position for the Lions in Montreal. The 26-year-old handled himself admirably against the CONCACAF Champions League finalists adding more intrigue into a possible Shea-Boden partnership.
While Molino and Kaká have been regulars in two of the three attacking midfield spots, the left midfield position has been a revolving door. The most common starter at left midfield, when the 4-2-3-1 formation has been used, has been Eric Avila. But with Molino now out for the season, it’s expected that Avila will move over to take that position leaving a void on the left.
After Saturday night’s friendly, many expect that void to be filled by moving Brek Shea forward from left back and replacing him with Luke Boden. It’s a partnership on the left that many have been clamoring for and may see come Friday night.