Brek Shea has been starved for first-team playing time, and he has gone to the depths of England's second tier in hopes of receiving some.
Shea, the U.S. winger, was loaned from Stoke City to League Championship cellar dweller Barnsley on a 28-day emergency loan Wednesday, and he went right into the starting lineup for the club's New Year's Day bout against Birmingham, donning the No. 33 shirt. Shea exited after an active 75 minutes, marking the most he has played in a league match in ages.
Since moving to Stoke from FC Dallas, Shea has hardly played, combatting injuries and roster competition for time. Of the U.S. contingent at Stoke City, only Geoff Cameron has found a regular starting role, with Shea and Maurice Edu limited to reserve duties at best during the 2013-14 campaign.
This season, Shea has appeared in one league game, a 31-minute appearance against Everton on Nov. 30. That hasn't completely harmed his place in Jurgen Klinsmann's pecking order, as evidenced by his continued call-ups (and Gold Cup final heroics).
But with the World Cup on the horizon and U.S. roster competition not slowing, securing regular minutes has to be a priority for Shea and all who hope to be among the 23 who punch their tickets to Brazil. The loan will provide Shea with about a month to prove his worth to Stoke manager Mark Hughes from afar, with Barnsley having five league games and an FA Cup bout on the docket over the duration of Shea's loan. WATCH: 2013 U.S. men's national team highlight reel