With the Colorado Rapids’ 2014 campaign over, centre-back Shane O’Neill has taken the opportunity to travel across the Atlantic for an offseason training stint with Sheffield Wednesday.
One of the most talented youngsters in MLS, O’Neill trained last year with Fulham following a stellar 2013 season, and is now back in England until December 4 for another taste of European football to help aid his development.
“I was looking forward to some time off, but this opportunity is too good to pass up,” he told the club’s official website. “Anytime you get a chance to train with a club like this, it’s massive, and I’m excited to see how much my game has grown since I went last year."
Aged 21, O’Neill signed as a ‘Homegrown Player’ with the Rapids in June 2012 after coming up through the club’s youth ranks, and has since gone on to make 48 regular-season appearances, proving a key component to the side which earned a play-off spot in 2013.
A former US Under-20 international, his impressive performances earned him a call-up to Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior squad in January, with many now tipping him as one of the leading contenders to be starting in the centre of defence once the 2018 World Cup rolls around.
Also capable of filling in at right-back or at defensive midfielder, where he first started his career, O’Neill’s 2014 season was disrupted by an MCL sprain from mid-July to September, as the Rapids suffered a dismal loss in form in his absence, and head coach Pablo Mastroeni has acknowledged just how important he is to the line-up.
“Having had the opportunity to play alongside Shane and then coach him this past season, I can say that he’s a player that has the hunger and desire to achieve great things,” he said.
“And this time in Europe will also be especially valuable because he missed part of our season this year because of injury.”
Boasting dual citizenship in the US and the Republic of Ireland, having moved to Boulder, Co., when he was just one, an EU passport means O’Neill would have an easier path than most Americans to Europe in the future, and that’s where he will no doubt be heading if he continues to progress towards fulfilling his undoubted potential.
While his Wednesday spell is strictly for the experience at his point, there remains a valuable opportunity to leave a lasting impression, but the versatile MLS star isn’t yet thinking about a permanent switch across the pond.
“It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride the past two years,” O’Neill said. “But [being a young player] you just have to stay focused and establish yourself and put in strong performances week-in and week-out to prove that you belong.”