Academy product O'Neill adds another highlight to memorable year
Commerce City, Colo. - Shane O'Neill is having quite a year. Let's review:
Last December he was named the Most Valuable Player of the West team at the 2011 High School All-American Soccer Game in Birmingham, Ala.
In February he signed a national letter of intent to play for the NCAA powerhouse University of Virginia.
In April, the two-sport high school star turned down the invite to play in The Show – the state’s annual high-school basketball All-Star game - in order to travel with the Rapids for a reserve match against Real Salt Lake, in which he saw his first minutes alongside professionals.
On June 19 he accepted a contract to join the Colorado Rapids, becoming the second Academy player to move up to the pro side.
In July he made his pro debut in a friendly against English Premier League side Swansea City.
On September 5 he made his MLS debut against the Portland Timbers, becoming the first Academy player to play in an official MLS match.
And on October 1, he was named to his first-ever national team, making the 19-roster for the U.S. U-20 team that will participate in the Marbella Cup in Spain starting next week.
"It's been a really exciting year, between signing and making my pro debut and making my MLS debut and now this camp," O'Neill told ColoradoRapids.com on Monday. "Hopefully I can keep that progress going into the offseason, and next year hopefully I can make a little bit more of an impact on the first team."
Like many ambitious soccer players, O'Neill had dreams of one day representing his country. However in his case - being a dual citizen who was born in Ireland and raised in the U.S. - he never knew if either country's national teams would come calling.
Growing up in a family with strong Irish roots, O'Neill, when pressed, had previously admitted that he hoped to one day represent Ireland, though also stating that playing for the U.S. would be nice, too.
"I'm really excited and happy that (U.S. Soccer) recognized my ability," O'Neill said. "Obviously I'd love to play for the U.S. as well, so this opportunity from the U.S. is really exciting. Hopefully I can do well."
The 19-year-old from Fairview High School in Boulder becomes the third player from the Rapids Academy system to be called up for a U.S. U-20 camp this year. James Rogers was part of camps in April and May and Dillon Serna played for the U.S. U-20s at the Milk Cup in July.
"Oviously it's my first time being called in to any national team camp," he said. "So I want to make the most of the opportunity of being around the best players that are my age, and around really good coaches, and the environment. I'm just really excited."