KAYSERI, Turkey – On a night when the United States bowed out of the U-20 World Cup following a 4-1 loss to Ghana, defender Shane O'Neill was the team's clear standout in a performance filled with frustration.
Aside from netting the team's lone goal, the Colorado Rapids man worked without much fault at the back and showed some good wheels in repeatedly moving the team forward on the dribble. Despite his good outing, O'Neill was still left to pick up the pieces along with the rest of his teammates.
"It's a tough loss, but they're a good team and they played well," said the 19-year-old. "Once we got that goal, I thought we were back in the game, but the third goal broke our spirits. There was definitely chances to come back in the game, but it wasn't our night. It was disappointing."
O'Neill provided the brightest US moment of the game by nodding home an Oscar Sorto cross to slice Ghana's lead to 2-1 with 21 minutes to play, temporarily offering hope of a rally.
"I missed a chance before I scored that I probably should have put away, too," he noted. "That's kind of my game, I'm used to playing midfield."
It definitely showed as the centerback took every chance to eat up ground on the dribble with the game's result still in question. He says there was no plan for him to do so, but the situation dictated some rogue rushes.
"I just saw the opportunity to push up," O'Neill said. "There was a lot of space, so I just said, 'I'm going to take my chances.' It's one game, we were losing and I just pushed up."
The fightback was short-lived, however, as Ghana restored their earlier two-goal advantage with a goal that O'Neill says really stung.
"We were just lax on set pieces," he sighed. "That will hurt you, especially at this level.
"We kind of fell asleep and they got a goal off of a corner. They were so much smaller than us, we should have never let that happen. That’s obviously the disappointing part, because I think once we got the goal we were on the front foot and we could have pushed on."
Now that it's over, O'Neill says he will still find the positives from a tournament that passed by without a US victory.
"Obviously, you learn," he said. "A year-and-a-half's work goes by in a flash. Three games and it's done, especially [with my] being suspended for the first one.
"If you don't seize the moment, you'll be going home after the first round like we are. It's a good learning experience and hopefully for most of us there will be another [major international tournament] to come."