American Exports: US midfielder Conor O'Brien calls new club Odense BK "perfect" for his skill set
AMSTERDAM – Fresh Odense BK signing Conor O'Brien says his surprising weekend transfer from Superliga rivals FC Nordsjælland came about quickly, with playing time being his main motivator for the move.
The 24-year-old had started the last three league matches for FCN, but he's often been caught behind youth prospects the club is trying to season since arriving on a free transfer from SönderjyskE in January. With Odense, O'Brien will feel more assured of being inked into the line-up card.
"I was looking for a little bit more of a chance to prove myself than I felt I was going to get at Nordsjælland," O'Brien told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Denmark. "The option came up for me and I took the chance."
The New York native immediately started five games upon arrival at Nordsjælland, helping the Wild Tigers ring up four wins and a draw to shrink their title deficit. However, O'Brien then got the nod in just one of seven matches as the team slumped out of the championship race late.
This term, O'Brien started four of six Superliga games, but saw just 20 minutes of action in four European contests. All in all, his status in the FCN depth chart always seemed a bit of a mystery to observers.
"I can totally understand that, friends have even said things to me about how it's strange," he said. "It was a confusing time at Nordsjælland, but I think they're going through a transition period, where they really focus on playing young players. It was tough to be sitting when sometimes I felt I was the stronger player or they were trying to encourage players from the youth system.
"I think I played well in Nordsjælland and proved to a lot of people that I could attain that level at a bigger club. Maybe I didn't have some of the goals and assists I had at SønderjyskE, but if you look at team performances, without me they didn't win one game in my time there. It made a difference whether I was on the field or off the field, and I think some people around the league noticed that."
Odense were among those who noticed and pounced on the opportunity. New boss Troels Bech intends to put the American back in the two-way central midfield role in which he starred at SønderjyskE, but has made known he reserves the right to utilize his latest recruit's versatility during a selection crisis.
"They see me in the central midfield," reported O'Brien. The way they play is perfect for me, they want to keep the ball and dominate possession.
"I think I can bring some stability to midfield, but the coaching staff has talked about playing me as an attacker or wingback if they run out of options or have injuries. But the middle is the first option."
O'Brien will get his first crack at a debut for OB, who stand 5th in the table through seven rounds of play, when they visit Brøndby on September 15. He is now in line to become the second American to play for the club, following former MLS netminder and current Montreal Impact executive Matt Jordan.
Greg Seltzer covers American players based in Europe for MLSsoccer.com.