Here's what I read in the article by Dave Lindholm from Rapids Media relations that went off like a bomb of suppressed outrage in my still tender brain-spot where I keep all my outrage:
"Recently, I had to argue O'Neill's 24 Under 24 case to an MLSsoccer.com personality, who thought that he wasn't as flashy as some others that might make the list. I'll be sending emails in the next couple weeks (I'm unsure as to when their panel starts voting on this) but we'll see if other share his opinion."
It brought back painful memories of last years 24 Under 24, in which the Rapids got absolutely no representation. Including, most shockingly, Martin Rivero. Who even Matt Doyle had to admit was excluded for possibly the most dubious reason. "He's not a prat".
2. Martín Rivero, attacking midfielder, Colorado Rapids
Why he should have made it: A true No. 10 who’s been productive (one goal, eight assists), who’s shown he can handle the physical rigors of the league, who’s been willing to track back defensively, who hasn’t griped and who serves as good a dead ball as anybody save David Beckham, Federico Higuaín or Brad Davis.
That’s Designated Player territory. Rivero’s absence is a pretty glaring oversight.
Why he didn’t make it: The God’s honest truth is that Rivero didn’t make it because he’s not a prat. If he was moody, myopic and prone to the "me first" behavior many of us associate with the typical Argentine enganche (think Juan Román Riquelme), he’d have captured everyone’s imagination. We want our No. 10s to be tortured artists, not hard-working, team players.
Pretty stunning stuff here. Either Doyle was really searching here for some reason, any reason, why Rivero might not have been included so far that he even had to imagine the darkest recesses of the dumbest parts of the human brain to extract this nugget, or this was actually the reason being thrown around the New York offices.
Look, if you didn't watch a lot of the Rapids last year, no one would excuse you, because it was pretty awful. But we all can agree that Rivero was key to any success the team had last year. His exclusion was pretty hard to miss. This year, it looks like a case is having to be made again for Shane O'Neill, the 19 year old starting Center Back for the Colorado Rapids and United States U-20's.
Let me say that again: hinted at in Dave Lindholm's quote is that there is a question here as to whether or not to include a 19 year old starting Centerback for one of the best defenses (by total goals allowed) in the league and for the United States Men's U-20 National team. It's hard to imagine a guy at Shane's age doing any more to warrant some attention from the New York offices. The kid is years ahead of his time in terms of his development, and his maturity at his position is a testament to the Academy system which Major League Soccer has been trying to promote relentlessly in conjunction with US Soccer.
There's something else here, something I think we all implicitly understand but perhaps are afraid to say out loud for fear of sounding conspiratorial, but here it goes: If Shane O'Neill were starting for the Los Angeles Galaxy or the New York Red Bulls, there would be no question of his inclusion in the the 24 Under 24. We would be hearing about this kid all over the place. But for now, he quietly gets to work his way through a starting spot in one of the top defenses in the league in terms of goals allowed.
(Rapids are 2nd currently in the league to New England, who have a game yet to play.)
O'Neill also steadied a back line that was fraught with injuries, a team that was devastated, and he made the most of his moment. You'd think this would be a story that MLS could run with. A kid who comes up through the Academy, who works his way to the starting job and makes it his own. Instead, what we feel like is another episode of "he's not a prat" coming on. Another excuse that people have to do mental gymnastics in order to justify.
Look, 24 Under 24 is not that big of a deal at the end of the day. Rapids fans know that they've got a good team on their hands and that something very good is happening in the mean streets of Commerce City. But players who work hard and make a difference should receive recognition for that regardless of what position they play or which club they happen to play for.
Ideally, all the RapKids that have played significant minutes for the 1st team would get recognized for their contributions, but let's let Burgundy Wave make a case here for Shane O'Neill to be included in that list of players recognized for their talent at young age. Even if he's not a prat.