The Colorado Rapids defender Shane O’Neill has begun 2014 the way that he ended 2013 – front and center.
News of his selection to the USMNT January training camp followed swiftly in the footsteps of a fortnight at Fulham, of the English Premier League.
“It was such a great experience,” O’Neill told ColoradoRapids.com. “And it will set me up nicely for the forthcoming camp with the US.”
The 20-year-old Irish-born O’Neill was quick to confirm that the spell in London was purely a ‘training stint’ and not a trial, but believes he returned a better player.
"You've got to be aware of what’s around you," O'Neill admitted. "That was the big thing for me. You had to try to play one-touch, otherwise you got kicked in a hurry, so I definitely picked up a few good learning things and the coaching staff were very helpful, so it was good.”
The Rapids' Homegrown Player was in London at a similar time to teammates Clint Irwin, Chris Klute and Dillon Serna being at Everton, and it clearly served a purpose.
“I played a match against the under-21s of Crystal Palace,” O’Neill said. “I then was just training with the (Fulham) under-21s. It was really good training, really intense and so I was really happy with the two weeks.
“Speed of play, maybe, and just the intensity – the physical intensity – were the two big differences. Obviously the players are very technical over there but, at the same time, I think they just move the ball really fast. They see the next pass and play one-touch really well."
O’Neill, who lives with his family in Boulder, has made no secret of his desire to play in Europe – ideally in the English Premier League. For now, though, he’ll use the experience to good effect in MLS. His spell with Fulham will stand him in good stead as he continues to learn his trade, and that can only be good for O’Neill, the USA and the Rapids.
“The intensity over there is definitely very high,” he added. “It’s very cut-throat, so I think it’s going to set me up well. I think the staff over there at Fulham, and the whole club in general, are extremely professional. I couldn’t say a bad word about them."