During halftime of the game against the San Jose Earthquakes, I was chatting with someone down in 117 about how the game was going thus far (it was going whatever the opposite of swimmingly is, as Rapids Rabbi pointed out earlier). One point that was brought up was Shane O'Neill, and the fact that he hadn't been getting an enormous amount of minutes this season.
O'Neill's lack of minutes has been the topic of a few discussions, including one earlier this season about his apparent want of more.
Reality is this, if O'Neill/Serna don't get playing time, they will leave. And I believe O'Neill's days in COL are very much numbered.— Chris Bianchi (@Rapids_News) May 8, 2015
I can see where people are coming from in regards to O'Neill's lack of playing time. He's a hometown kid with a few good seasons under his belt; of course we're going to want to see him on the field. However, the reason that O'Neill hasn't been on the field has had little to do with Pablo Mastroeni making mistakes with his line-up selection or any sort of injury situation. Rather, he's simply just been played out of the spot.
The post I made earlier in the year about how fabulous the Rapids defense has been has weathered a bit in the weeks since -- surprise, surprise, a 0.5 GA mark per game was unsustainable -- but it's still holding true. The Rapids defense has been pretty darn good all year long, and after 10 games they've still got a goals against record of less than a goal per game. That superb defensive record has been in large part due to the center back play on the team.
To put it simply, there's no room for O'Neill in the starting line-up right now. Rookie of the Year candidate Axel Sjoberg has been WhoScored's best Rapids player for essentially the entire season, and it would be absolutely silly to remove him from the field when he's been playing with such stoutness. (Has a single cross actually beaten him all season? I don't think I've seen him lose a header yet.) After him, Drew Moor is the obvious choice to be penciled in every match, if not only because he's got the captain's armband on lock.
Really, the argument should only be who the third-string CB should be: O'Neill or Bobby Burling. The Sjoberg-Moor pairing has just been too good to break up otherwise. O'Neill's lack of minutes is simply because he hasn't earned a starting spot past those two, and I have a feeling unless there's some sort of immense defensive breakdown in the team halfway through the season, it's likely going to stay that way. Bad news for the homegrown player perhaps, but not something that Rapids fans should be complaining about if it helps them get points. I don't think anyone would argue that they should be doing whatever they can to accomplish that.
Now, Dillon Serna's lack of minutes... that's a topic worth some more discussion. Next time, perhaps.