Shane O’Neill will have no fears when he strides into camp with the US national team later this month, having been called in along with Colorado Rapids teammate Chris Klute.
Neither will he be overawed by the occasion, having gone toe-to-toe with MLS’s finest in 2013 and he refuses to rule out making a late charge for the World Cup squad.
“I can’t lie and say it hasn’t crossed my mind (making the World Cup squad),” O'Neill told ColoradoRapids.com. “Hopefully, if I go there and do well, who knows what can happen. It’s a long road, and it’s an extremely tough squad to break in to, the top US team, but I think that if I go there and do what I know I can do, then I don’t think that it’s beyond the realms of possibility.
“I’ve been called in for a reason. I’ve gotten a few weeks under my belt at Fulham, so I’m going there in pretty good form, so honestly I’m going to go there with an open mind and see what I can do but I definitely think that if I can make an impression then there’s always a chance.”
The 20-year-old central defender learned of his senior selection via a series of text messages, emails and missed calls and is clearly very excited at the prospect of being a part of the USMNT set up in World Cup year.
“I was a bit shocked (at the call up), but at the same time felt I was ready. I couldn’t be happier,” O’Neill said.
For the young Homegrown Player, who only made his first MLS start on March 30, 2013 – in a 2-2 tie with Portland Timbers – the swift progress and his now elevated status will not go to his head.
“To be honest, there’s just been so many surprises,” O’Neill admitted. “It’s all been so shocking, that you just try and keep a level head through it all, but obviously I’m extremely happy with it and hopefully I can take the opportunity.
“All of these things have come as a huge surprise – playing almost every game in the MLS season, going to the U20 World Cup, and now this.”
O’Neill will be joined in Carson, Calif. by Klute, both of whom were unearthed as real gems in 2013.
“It’s kinda shocking how we both broke into the side in the same game, at the Galaxy, and we’ve both created a really partnership,” O’Neill said of his club-mate.
“Sometimes, we’ll be screaming each other’s heads off because he wants me to be covering him, or something. But, at the end of the day, we respect each other a ton.”
For two young Rapids players to come to the notice of Jurgen Klinsmann and his technical staff is a huge boost, not only for the individuals concerned, but also for the club.
O’Neill insists this news, coupled with the senior caps won by Deshorn Brown with Jamaica, speaks volumes for the faith placed in youth by the Rapids.
The Irish-born defender could yet represent the nation of his birth, but this call-up to the US training camp takes him another step closer to playing for the country he now calls home, although his mind is still not made up.
“Obviously I’m just extremely settled with this call-up right now,” O’Neill admitted. “You know, until you’re capped (at senior level), you still have a decision to make.
“I’ve played solely with the US. I haven’t played with Ireland, yet, so I’m pretty committed to the US right now and they’ve given me this chance, so hopefully I can get capped some time, but at the same time I’ve got to keep an open mind.”
It has been a whirlwind 18 months for O’Neill, since signing a pro contract on June 19, 2012. In that short space of time, he has become a regular in the Rapids side, featured at the U20 World Cup, trained with English Premier League club Fulham and will now mix with the USA’s finest, just as the game’s greatest tournament comes into view.
A World Cup spot for O’Neill may be improbable ... but it's not impossible - and what a story that would be.