Shane O’Neill got the best early Christmas present he could’ve possibly asked for.
On Dec. 23, the Colorado Rapids defender’s phone blew up after he returned to the US from a training stint at English Premier League side Fulham with messages containing big, unexpected news:
He was going to be called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for the US national team's January training camp.
“I was pretty shocked,” the 20-year-old center back told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday after the 26-man USMNT roster was announced earlier in the morning. “I’m going to go there with an open mind. I’m just excited with the text from Jurgen saying I was going to get called in.”
O’Neill will be joined by his back-line teammate Chris Klute, 23, two of the Rapids’ young regulars from 2013. Both have spent time at the youth level for the US, but this is the first senior national team camp for both players. O’Neill and left back Klute started last season as fringe players for the Rapids before becoming key parts of the club’s surprise run to the playoffs.
For O’Neill, the selection could help solidify him pledging his international allegiance to the US. The Ireland-born, Colorado-raised US Under-20 national teamer still won’t rule out playing for Ireland, although it appears he might soon get his first chance to wear the red, white and blue at the senior level.
“Obviously, just to get the opportunity to play at this level is fantastic wherever they want to play me,” said O’Neill, who earlier in the offseason expressed a desire to play in the midfield in 2014 after deploying almost exclusively at center back last season.
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“Position-wise, it doesn’t really matter,” he said of his national team opportunity. “I’d play anywhere.”
He trained at midfield during his stint with Fulham last month. However, he expects to play primarily as a defender with the national team.
“I’m not going to rule out any possibilities for sure,” O’Neill said of his international future. “It’s just a training camp, and hopefully it’ll just be used as a good way to improve my game for the next couple of weeks.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.