Colorado Rapids centre-back Shane O’Neill played in a friendly fixture with Sheffield Wednesday’s Under-21s on Tuesday, as he continues his training stint-cum-trial with the Championship club.
One of the most talented youngsters in MLS, O’Neill trained last year with Fulham following a stellar 2013 campaign, and is now back in England for another taste of European football during the offseason.
Having played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough, the 21-year-old American’s performance is said to have impressed, as he described the action to Colorado’s official website following the match.
"The first half Boro had a lot of the ball," he explained. "Their wingers got in behind the fullbacks a few times and caused problems. Luckily for us, the one or two times the keeper was called upon to make a save he did that and kept us in it.
"Second half we really pressed them, changed the formation and were dominant. A great second half performance was capped off by a fantastic goal, but we battled it out in the first half and deserved the victory."
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 breakout season 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.
However, with dual citizenship in the US and the Republic of Ireland, having moved to Boulder, Co., when he was just one, the County Cork-born defender could still opt to represent the Boys in Green.
That fact saw him become a topic of conversation during Klinsmann’s pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday’s international friendly against Ireland in Dublin, with the German reiterating his stance on the matter.
Jurgen asked if Shane O’Neill is in his plans. “Yes, he’s in our plans.” When reminded O’Neill is Irish-born, JK “Yes, but he’ll go with us”— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) November 17, 2014
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, meaning his Wednesday stint is a valuable opportunity to keep up his fitness ahead of the 2015 season.
While the Rapids stress his spell at Hillsborough is strictly for experience at this point, Wednesday officials have confirmed that they are treating his time at the club as a trial, with an EU passport making a potential transfer straightforward compared to the average MLS prospect.
O’Neill could therefore be set to follow in the footsteps of compatriot John Harkes, who arrived in Sheffield in 1990 and went on to become the first American to play in the Premier League, with his time in England currently set to end on December 4.