COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (Friday, April 18, 2014) – Colorado Rapids players Shane O’Neill, Dillon Serna and Marlon Hairston have been selected for a United States Under-21 National Team training camp next week in Carson, Calif. The three Rapids players, two of whom (O’Neill and Serna) are Rapids Homegrown Players, were picked by U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos. Colorado has more players on this U.S. roster than any other club.
“This is an exciting opportunity for these three players, and proof that the Rapids philosophy of identifying and developing young talent is on the right track,” said Paul Bravo, the Rapids VP of Soccer Operations and Technical Director. “We’re building from within with our Homegrown Players like Shane and Dillon, as well as through MLS SuperDraft picks like Marlon, and then getting them significant chances with the first team. This is a great achievement for these players, and we wish them luck in California.”
The U.S. U-21 camp was set up to bridge the gap between the Under-20 National Team and the Senior National Team, as well as form a core group of players that will make up the majority of the Under-23 Men’s National Team that will attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The U-23 MNT will begin programming in 2015. O’Neill, Serna and Hairston all have extensive previous experience with the U.S. Under-20 National Team.
“We’re excited to bring some of our best young players together for this initial U-21 camp,” said Ramos. “We’re hoping that we can have another two or three camps between now and the end of the year. This camp is purely to have the team together so that we begin moving in the right direction. When the time is right, we can put a group that has kept playing together and is familiar with each other in front of the permanent coach.”
All three players will depart after the Rapids match against San Jose on Saturday night, and will be with the U.S. U-21 Team from Sunday through Thursday before rejoining the Rapids ahead of the match at the Seattle Sounders on April 26.
Boulder native O’Neill, 20, was signed as the Rapids’ second Homegrown Player on June 19, 2012, and established himself as a regular in Colorado’s defense early in the 2013 season. He was named the Rapids Young Player of the Year for 2013 after a season in which he played 26 games (24 starts), including a run in which the team went 16 games undefeated in O’Neill’s first 16 starts as a professional. He started two matches for the U.S. team at last summer’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, scoring one of the team’s three goals at the tournament.
Serna, another Rapids Academy product out of Brighton, recently turned 20 and is finding more minutes with the Rapids first team in 2014. He made his MLS debut in the final regular season match of 2013, and then started and went the full 90 minutes in the 2014 season opener, a 1-1 draw at New York. He has recently returned from an ankle injury and earned his first MLS assist in the 1-0 win over Toronto last weekend. Serna was a regular with the U.S. U-20’s throughout World Cup qualifying in 2012 and 2013.
Hairston, 20, was selected by the Rapids in the first round of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft after two years at the University of Louisville. A member of Generation adidas, the Jackson, Miss. native made his MLS debut in the third match of the 2014 season, coming on as a late substitute in the match against Sporting Kansas City. Hairston was with the U.S. U-20’s at last summer’s Toulon Tournament in France, where he suffered an injury that kept him out of the World Cup.
The Rapids host Western Conference rival San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday, April 19 at 4 p.m. MT at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, looking to build on the team’s 3-1-1 start to the 2014 season. Tickets are available for Saturday’s game by calling 303-825-GOAL or clicking here.
U.S. U-21 National Team camp roster by position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Kempin (Oklahoma City Energy; Leawood, Kan.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (5): Christian Dean (Vancouver Whitecaps; East Palo Alto, Calif.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Tigres UANL; Riverside, Calif.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids; Jackson, Miss.), Benji Joya (Chicago Fire; San Jose, Calif.), Collin Martin (D.C. United; Chevy Chase, Md.), Esteban Rodriguez (Club Tijuana; Bell Gardens, Calif.), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)
FORWARDS (7): Daniel Cuevas (CF Lobos BUAP; Sacramento, Calif.), Danny Garcia (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas), Jack McBean (LA Galaxy; Newport Beach, Calif.), Jordan Morris (Stanford; Mercer Island, Wash.), Sean Okoli (Seattle Sounders FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Jose Villarreal (Cruz Azul; Inglewood, Calif.)