Orlando City

2018 Orlando City Season in Review: Shane O’Neill



Irish center back Shane O’Neill was the first of Orlando City’s two acquisitions during the summer transfer window in an attempt to shore up one of the worst defenses in MLS history. The former Colorado Rapids Homegrown — signed after a few unsuccessful attempts to earn his way in Europe — continued to carry a Homegrown designation upon his return to Major League Soccer, providing the Lions with some salary cap relief as well as new blood on the back line.

O’Neill’s arrival, along with Peruvian Carlos Ascues, didn’t do much to stem the tide of goals, however, and OCSC set a new record high in goals conceded in a single season. Shane was a constant in the lineup during the second half of the year, putting in solid shifts for a struggling side. Let’s take a closer look at his first four months in purple:

Statistical Breakdown

O’Neill appeared in 13 regular season matches, starting all 13 for a total of 1,118 minutes. Shane was only left out of three matches that he was available for after joining the team. His passing was consistent as well, averaging an 85.5% completion rate with 39.2 passes per game, seventh-best on the team. He didn’t score or assist on a goal, attempting six shots (one on target).

Shane was top 10 in just about every defensive statistic on the team when it came to per-game averages. His 1.8 tackles per match was the best among Orlando City’s center backs, though his 1.5 interceptions, 3.8 clearances, and 0.5 blocks all lagged behind at least two of Lamine Sané, Jonathan Spector, and Amro Tarek. O’Neill was also decently effective in the air, winning 1.6 aerial duels per match, though it was still third-best among central defenders for the Lions.

One way that O’Neill set himself apart was discipline. The Irishman was middle of the pack on the team for fouls committed with 0.7 fouls per match. He received zero yellow cards, though he was sent off after 83 minutes in Orlando’s 2-0 loss to New York City FC.

Best Game

Shane isn’t the type of player to take over a sequence and make the big stop or crunching tackle. He excels in the little things, like maintaining solid positioning, and his best nights are when you don’t notice him very much. O’Neill may never be the stand-out player in a match, and that’s perfectly fine for a central defender.

O’Neill’s best match was likely Orlando’s 2-0 loss against FC Dallas. Even though the Lions lost, it was through no fault of Shane’s. The Irishman racked up two tackles, an interception, and five clearances while also posting a solid 83.7% pass completion rate. O’Neill’s three aerial duels won was second only to Sané for the Lions.

Shane was crucial to Orlando staying in the match for as long as the Lions did, physically holding off the FC Dallas attackers. In the end, it just wasn’t enough.

2018 Final Grade

The staff of The Mane Land settled on a composite grade of 6.5 for O’Neill. His first half year in purple was solid and showed what he can contribute, though he was mired in Orlando’s consistent defensive issues. As a Homegrown and therefore off-budget signing, his production was fantastic for a player that didn’t count against Orlando’s cap hit.

2019 Outlook

O’Neill was signed to a four-year contract with option years and Orlando will likely have a decision to make about his future for 2019. With how heavily O’Neill was used by James O’Connor, it’s likely that he’ll be in the plans for next season as a rotational option at the very least, and could very likely be the third-choice central defender for Orlando. If the gaffer decides to roll out the 3-4-3 he tinkered with at times in 2018, it could mean big minutes for O’Neill. He’s mobile, has shown good footwork, and even got forward to join in the attack when the Lions were searching for goals late in games.

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