COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – He might be a central defender now, but Shane O’Neill is a midfielder by trade. And that’s what made Saturday night so important to him.
Growing up about 30 miles from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Rapids Homegrown defender tallied his first MLS goal on Saturday night in Colorado’s 4-1 win over the Montreal Impact, and it was a beauty (WATCH O'Neill's goal here).
Taking a ball from just outside the top of the 18, the 20-year-old sent a curling blast straight into the top left corner of Troy Perkins’ goal, giving the Montreal 'keeper no chance to keep out O’Neill’s seemingly elusive first professional goal.
“It's been a long time coming for me,” O’Neill told reporters postgame. “It felt really good once the ball popped out. I think I had a couple of chances like that last year. I got a good touch on it. Once it left my foot, I kind of had a feeling it was going in. It was great, but more importantly, we got the three points tonight.”
O’Neill has established himself as a key figure in the Rapids starting XI over the last year, first coming in for injured defender Diego Calderon last March and never letting go of his spot in the lineup. O’Neill’s play last year caught the eye of Jurgen Klinsmann, who called up the Ireland-born, Colorado-raised defender for a senior national team camp in January.
Meanwhile, not only did last night’s goal open O’Neill's MLS scoring account, it might’ve helped his bank account some, too. He won't have to splurge on the video game console that's now come his way at the expense of teammate Chris Klute.
“Me and Chris had an agreement that whoever scores first had to buy the other one a video game,” O’Neill said. “We've been going back and forth on who would score first.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.