Brek Shea among needed wing options 

February, 28, 2013

It's become the first question out of the mouths of American fans and critics alike in the moments after U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann names a roster: "Where's the width?"

Not that the alarming dearth of field-stretching wingers in the national team's player pool is new; it's been a problem since before Klinsmann took the job 18 months ago (see Bob Bradley's picks for the 2011 Gold Cup) -- and one that was particularly evident in the four dismal away qualifiers the U.S. has played so far on the road to the 2014 World Cup, a stretch in which the Yanks have gone 1-2-1.

The issue, of course, has been magnified by the absence of Landon Donovan. Without the U.S. career scoring leader available to run the flanks, the U.S. attack has had a devil of a time creating scoring chances. Only Clint Dempsey's efficiency in front of goal has kept it from becoming a major concern.

Klinsmann's stopgap solution, at least recently, has been to deploy speedy forward Eddie Johnson on the left side. But really the coach expects his fullbacks to get forward, as this diagram -- supplied by a U.S. staffer shortly before the Americans' Feb. 6 loss in Honduras -- shows. It's not a bad idea, but it's not ideal.

All of this helps explain why Brek Shea's return to action this past weekend after four months on the sideline after foot surgery was such a welcome sight for everyone around American soccer, including Klinsmann & Co.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.