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An Irish American Tale

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

My wife and I had a rough day. Our dog had been sick lately and was keeping us up late at night. We have a 1.5-year-old daughter who never stops moving. Finishing work last Wednesday, we decided to go out for a bite to try to make life easier and enjoy ourselves a bit. We drove over to one of our favorite Mexican spots, but they had a 20 minute wait. Tried another go-to spot, Breckenridge Brewery, which as it turned out the food trucks were essentially out of food. So we rolled the dice and strolled into a place we had never been to before. Being hangry, it was a bit dodgy but we made it just in time before the ticking time bomb exploded.

We walk up and I notice an Irish flag hanging outside. Cool looking spot, lots of outdoor seating. Huge signage reads Lansdowne Arms Bistro and Pub. I immediately ask the staff if they can put the Rapids game on. Waitress says she’s a big soccer fan and “of course!” with enthusiasm. It’s starting to look like we have turned this day around. Looking around the pub, it appears to be pretty darn authentic. My wife’s favorite holiday is St Patricks Day so this means a lot to us. We noticed they had a nice bar with Harp, Smithwicks, Guiness and various Breckenridge beers on tap. Nice wood features, semiprivate rooms and overall a real cozy Irish pub feeling. I told her, “looks like we have a new spot to enjoy St Pats!”. Next thing I know I have a perfectly poured Guinness while Marcelo Balboa and Richard Fleming give me the pregame run down on TV.

The whistle blows and it’s game time! Although I’m chasing my kid around the pub, like any good soccer fan, I'm also trying to watch the game as closely as possible given the circumstances. A staff member notices me, gives me a friendly nod and checked out my jersey. I thought, he must like soccer and clearly noticed that I was wearing Rapids gear. Then in the 14th minute the Rapids are ripped open on the right flank, 1-0 to the bad guys. The same staff member finished running food to a table, looks at the screen, looks over at me and shakes his head sharing his discontent with me. A few minutes later he walks up to me and starts some friendly conversation as we watch the game together. A very thick Irish accent rolls out and solidifies my love of this new spot.

We get to talking about soccer and the Rapids. And then the hammer drops. “Yeah my son used to play for the Rapids” says the man. This makes me involuntarily turn my neck towards the man in what I imagine looked like a scene from The Exorcist. He continued “He’s from Denver, actually, yeah.” I was sucked in big time, all kinds of thoughts swirling around in my head and all I could say was something like “oh cool! That’s awesome”. The Irishman went on to tell me more. “Yeah he played with the Rapids up until 2016, now he’s with the Sounders” and he stopped looking at the game and looked at me. I lit up. “Oh wow, that’s incredible. The Sounders are a top team, I’m sure he’s happy and doing well” I said. “Yeah, he is. My son is Shane O’Neill”. OHHHHHH MANNNNN! I reacted with sheer delight, a huge smile of disbelief and gesturing with my arms how excited I was. Of course, I knew who Shane was and what a great payer he’s been over the years.

“I’m Colm, Shane’s father and that’s his mum over there. Christine.” Colm shook my hand and I introduced myself. I couldn’t believe how kind this man was to me. He had no idea I was a member of the media, just a pure kind soul. Salt of the earth as they say. We got to talking more and he left with a good one. “Yeah, Shane hopes to be starting against Colorado when the Sounders come into town on July 4th”. It was truly an amazing experience meeting the friendly O'Neill family and one I won't forget soon. Needless to say, we had an incredible night at Lansdowne Arms and we can’t wait to go back.

(Image: Major League Soccer)

More on Shane and his family

Shane was born in Ireland; he and his 5 siblings immigrated to Colorado as young children. Colm was an All-Ireland winning Cork Gaelic footballer and Christine played basketball. Shane’s brother played American football at University of Colorado as a punter. They grew up playing a variety of sports and fell in love with Boulder, Colorado.

Shane’s soccer history/background: After becoming a naturalized citizen, Shane represented the USA at the U20 and U23 level. He signed with the Rapids Academy in 2012 as their second ever homegrown signing. This was three years in the making as he was in the youth system starting in 2009. His signing with the academy meant his previous commitment to the University of Virginia soccer program was exempted. In 2013 he was a finalist for best young American player alongside then FC Dallas player Kellyn Acosta and eventual winner Will Trapp. During this time Shane became a regular starter for the Rapids and received the Rapids Young Player of the Year award. The Rapids returned to the playoffs that year.

In 2015 Shane moved on from the Rapids with a move to Greece. He was loaned out several times to Belgium with REM, English League 2 side Cambridge United, and NAC Breda in the Netherlands. In 2017 he signed a one year deal with Excelsior in Rotterdam Netherlands. By June of that year he returned stateside with Orlando City. Eventually he found his new home in Seattle signing in January 2020 with one of the most successful teams in MLS, our next opponent, the Seattle Sounders FC. Last season they were second in the Western Conference and lost the MLS Cup Final to Columbus Crew where Shane had 24 total appearances for the club.

In recent weeks, he has not made a US roster, and speculation is that the Irish FA are interested. He isn’t captied and is versatile enough to not only play central defense but also the #6 role in midfield. He’s also excelled in the 3 at the back formation the Sounders are employing, and which is seemingly in vogue in the sport these days. Fittingly, Shane seems to be peaking in his development right now.

Back to the game

Unfortunately, it was not a good night for Rapids soccer as we lost handily to Sporting KC 3-1. The 3-5-2 formation seemed to be exploited by a side that knew how to find the gaps. Whether it was in between the midfield and defensive lines, or in between the wingbacks and centerbacks; there was simply too much space. The Rapids made mistakes all over the field and despite having some decent chances they didn’t finish those particularly well. When we did score Lalas Abubakar redeemed himself from some defensive mistakes by rising up on a corner and smashing a powerful header off the crossbar. This left Rosenberry with an opportunity where he barely had time to move his leg, not really shoot but react. Ball deflected off Rosenberry and in. He credited Abubakar right away. Even though the team fell short, they showed a fighting spirit and didn’t just give up. It’s easy for that kind of thing to happen but they pressed on and reacted well.

(Image: Colorado Rapids)

Moving Forward

That’s now two matches with a 3-5-2 formation. At first, I was excited because we won and seemed to get some of our best players on the field. However, against a stronger opponent it was too easy to exploit. The other factor in using this formation is that we lose our wingers, one of our deepest positions. Shinyashiki, Lewis, Benezet, and Galvan essentially get left out. I wouldn’t be surprised if this experiment ends soon and we revert to 4 at the back again. It may seem like a defensive formation intuitively but it can actually open up attacking options. Regardless, I think this team is best suited to the 433 or 4231 formation.

It’s almost forgotten at this point that we have not had our DP signing Younes Namli and won’t for another several weeks. He had successful surgery on June 6th and is reported to be out for 12-16 weeks. His 2-year loan ends this season but he's also still just 26 years old. The secondary transfer window opens from July 7th-August 5th this year. It’s possible we don’t see Namli play much more for the Rapids. Unless we can get him at a bargain price. Either way this leaves us with anywhere from 0 to 1 DP signing. As a reminder, because I know you're reading this Kroneke family, MLS teams are permitted to have a maximum of 3 DP signings. Hell, Miami tried to sign 5. If there's ever been a time to open up the books and push on- that time is now. This Rapids squad is giving reason for fans to have hope. They're performing at a high level but one or two key additions could make all the difference in the world.

Anyway, I’m sure that Padraig Smith and the Rapids organization have a plan in place once the window opens. Most fans and critics have pointed out that despite Rubio being a good player, a target #9 striker is the most fitting addition to this team. Rubio’s best season came when he was a second striker, working off Kai Kamara.

There are a lot of directions the Rapids Front Office could take in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully we don't see any key players depart as that could be a huge setback for a team that is progressing. For Coach Fraser, I would expect more of the same rotation of players but perhaps some tinkering with the formation used. Otherwise I'm looking for the mentality of this squad to bounce back, overcome adversity and play well against a top team in their next game.

Wrap Up

I’m sure you haven’t missed all of the promotions for it, but we have a big game coming up. Currently the best team in the Western Conference, the Seattle Sounders visit on July 4th. The largest fireworks show in the state will be on display. Shane O’Neill returns to his home state and is in contention for a starting role in the game for the Sounders. Can the Rapids bounce back and show that they can compete with the best teams in the league? The storylines are rich and deep. You don’t want to miss out!

Seattle is currently leading the Supporters Shield race. Last time we played Seattle was at home at the end of the 2020 season where the Rapids won 3-1. This helped push us over the line to a playoff berth and knocked Seattle out of contention for the Supporters Shield. Plenty has changed since then as both teams are looking sharper. Currently 5-3-1, the Rapids are in 3rd place in the West with 25 regular season games to go.

This will also mark the first game opened up to full capacity and we should expect DSG Park to be rocking! The largest public fireworks show in the state will be on display following full time. And to pile on top of the fun, the Rapids will be retiring the #25 jersey worn by the legendary Pablo Mastroeni. Until next time, stay safe out there soccer fans!

(Image: Colorado Rapids)

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