Brek Shea captures snake at Inter Miami practice, Campana’s Miami vacation leads to job

·4 min read
Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

The MLS season has not even started and already Inter Miami’s Brek Shea recorded his first assist.

Shea, the versatile veteran who re-signed with the club Wednesday, wasted no time making an impact at training Thursday morning.

Alerted that there was a snake by the practice field, Shea came to the rescue. He squatted down, reached into a hedge and calmly grabbed the snake by its midsection. He then put it in a trash bin for a staff member to carry it into the parking lot.

Afterward, Shea shrugged off the reptile rescue.

“I grew up having pet snakes, lizards, everything, I enjoy them,” Shea said. “Most people are scared of them, but they’re pretty nice. They were saying `Watch out, there’s a snake,’ and I just wanted to see it.”

Shea was one of three players signed since training camp began Monday, along with Colombian winger Emerson Rodriguez and Ecuadorean national team forward Leonardo Campana.

“I’m happy to be back,” Shea said. “I just do what I’m asked. If I’m asked to be a role player, I’m a role player. If I start, I start. I give everything I have every time I’m on the field. This team is young, going to have more energy, a lot of bite and hunger.”

Ecuadorean sports fans need no introduction to Campana.

The 21-year-old, who was acquired from the English Premier League’s Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan, has been a key player for Ecuador’s youth and senior national teams. He played in the 2021 Copa America and helped Ecuador rise to third place in the standings in South America’s World Cup qualifying tournament.

Campana, who has been vacationing in Miami since he was a child, was visiting for the holidays when he got the phone call from Inter Miami. He was delighted with the offer and hopes to earn regular playing time, which will help him stay in shape for his national team during this World Cup year.

“I was here for Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my family and [Inter] Miami contacted me, and I didn’t give it a second thought,” Campana said. “This has been my second home my whole life so I’m very excited for this project and very happy to be in Miami. For me, Miami is the best city in the USA. The people are amazing, and I can’t wait to be in the stadium with them and score goals for them. I also have family living here, so adapting won’t be a problem.

“I came here on vacation with one handbag and now a family member has to go to Switzerland to pick up my things.”

Campana’s family is steeped in Ecuadorean sports history.

His father Pablo was a professional tennis player and became a politician and businessman upon retirement. His great grandfather Gabriel won six Ecuadorian league medals in the 1920s. His mother Isabel Romero Noboa is the daughter of Isidro Romero, the former president of Ecuador’s Barcelona Sporting Club, and Isabel Noboa Pontón, who is one of the most successful businesswomen in Latin America.

Campana, who is comfortable in Spanish and English, holds American citizenship from his mother’s side and will not occupy an international roster slot. The loan is for one year with a club option for 2023.

“We’re excited to acquire a player of Leonardo’s pedigree. He’s a hungry young forward with a lot of promise, and we’re confident we’ll be able to develop him and help him reach his full potential with us,” said chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson. “He’ll add to our attack and give us a great option up front and we believe he can score goals in this league.”

Campana, who is 6-3, joined Wolves in January 2020 and made nine appearances for the English club. COVID interruptions and injuries hampered his first season. He went on loan to Portuguese club FC Famalicao and scored two goals with one assist.

In July 2021, Campana joined Grasshopper Club Zürich in the Swiss Super League, where he scored three goals in 14 league appearances.

“I came here to win, to put Miami where it belongs,” Campana said.

He is motivated to be playing alongside Higuain, the former Argentine national team star.

“I remember when I was a kid watching him play live at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and now to share the field with him … I want to be a sponge and absorb all the things he offers with his experience and quality and I’m sure we’ll be good partners on the field,” Campana said.

Campana started getting attention from European clubs after he led Ecuador’s U-20 team to the 2019 CONMEBOL U-20 Championship title as the top scorer in the tournament with six goals in nine games.

“I know the first few years didn’t go well for this club, but I think the new players who came in will help make the team live up to its big name,” he said. “What I need is playing time to once again become Leonardo the goal scorer that I was, and I hope to do that here.”

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