There is at least one notable absence from the United States Under-20 National Team roster that has gathers in Los Angeles for a week-long camp: Colorado Rapids defender Shane O’Neill. The Boulder-native started all five games for the U.S. U-20’s in the CONCACAF U-20 World Cup Qualifying tournament in Mexico in March, and followed that with regular minutes with the Rapids when injuries and absences began to hit the club’s back line.
Rapids midfielder Dillon Serna is part of the 24-man U.S. camp roster, however O'Neill's absence was the result of an agreement between the Rapids and U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos due to the defender’s increasing role with Colorado’s first team.
“We spoke with Tab [Ramos] and U.S. Soccer about Shane’s position, and Tab understands where Shane fits right now,” Rapids Technical Director Paul Bravo confirmed to ColoradoRapids.com. “We felt it was important for [Shane] to stay here and help us out as we get through our injury crisis.”
While O’Neill’s performances with both the U.S. and the Rapids in recent months have increased the 19-year-old defender’s profile, Bravo noted that the Rapids Homegrown Player still has work to do.
“Shane still has a lot to prove to maintain his spot in the U.S. U-20’s," said Bravo, “But he’ll be able to do that here. In the five games that they played down there in Mexico, he solidified his spot in that group and played almost every minute. By all accounts, Tab sees him as an important part of that group as they move forward for their preparation for Turkey.”
Finally, Bravo made clear that staying with the Rapids wouldn’t impact O’Neill’s chances of being selected to the final U.S. squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which will be held in June and July in Turkey.
“If it did [hurt his chances], we would’ve allowed him the opportunity to go and do what he needed to do there,” Bravo said. “I think all parties agreed that it was best for Shane to stay here, and that it wouldn’t jeopardize his standing with the National Team.”
The 19-year-old made his season debut as a second half substitute against the LA Galaxy on March 23. The next week he became the club's first homegrown player to start a match. He has started three of the five games in which he's appeared, and with defenders Diego Calderon (knee) and Marvell Wynne (quad) injured, O'Neill is an option to start against Houston next weekend.