The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team has lost its first two matches at the Toulon Tourment in France this week, but they'll be getting some defensive reinforcement soon with the arrival of Colorado Rapids center back Shane O'Neill.
Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja and U.S. Soccer U-20 head coach Tab Ramos had arranged for O'Neill to remain with Colorado through Saturday's match against FC Dallas before joining the U-20s in Europe. It's not the first time the two have worked in conjunction for the betterment of O'Neill, who was signed as a homegrown midfielder last year.
“I have to give credit to Tab Ramos, who saw it,” Pareja told The Denver Post of Ramos moving O'Neill to center back in previous camps. “I didn’t see it. I saw Shane as a midfielder. But Tab saw him as a defender. And it’s working for us now.”
The Rapids are undefeated in MLS play in the seven matches O'Neill has started - all on the backline.
The 19-year-old will depart Sunday to join Rapids teammateDillon Serna for the U20s two remaining matches of the tournament. Serna (#13, right) came off the bench in the opening day 4-1 loss to France and went the full 90 on Thursday in the 2-1 loss to Colombia. The U.S. will play Congo DR Saturday morning and finish the tournament with matches against Korea Republic on June 5 and a consolation match on June. 8.
Ramos is using this tournament as the final stage toward solidifying the 21-player roster for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, which kicks off June 21 against Spain.
Baring injury, it would seem as though O'Neill is a lock for the World Cup roster. Serna, on the other hand, has been told he's on the bubble, but he's "feeling confident" he can prove he belongs on the team, too.