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New Orlando City centerback Shane O’Neill eager to earn his place on the pitch

New Orlando City centerback Shane O'Neill trains with the Lions. (Jordan Culver-Orlando Sentinel)

SANFORD, Fla. — Shane O’Neill isn’t looking to just provide depth at centerback for Orlando City.

Yes, the Lions certainly need depth at the position. Club captain Jonathan Spector, Lamine Sané, Chris Schuler and Amro Tarek have all suffered injuries at different points in the season.

But O’Neill is looking to earn a spot in Orlando City’s starting XI regardless of who is fit to play.

“If somebody was telling you they’re here to provide depth, I think they’d be lying to you,” O’Neill said with a smile.

“At the same time, I feel like I’ve been around long enough to kind of know how it works. I mean, at the end of the day, we have very, very good players here. You have to respect that. You have to work very hard in training to earn your time here. But I know what I can bring to the table. I know when given opportunities, I can provide good things.

“I don’t doubt myself, if that makes sense. I think I’ve proven in the past – I’ve proven in MLS, I’ve proven in games in Europe, when I’ve been given opportunities – that I can play.”

Orlando City is still waiting to receive O’Neill’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC), but if all goes well, O’Neill will be available for selection this weekend against Toronto FC.

He might be needed. Sané and Spector recently picked up new injuries. Amro Tarek is – presumably – healthy. Chris Schuler has been playing, but still has his left arm wrapped after he broke it during Orlando City’s match against the Chicago Fire.

O’Neill represents a rare commodity for Orlando City at this point in the season: A healthy centerback. The club has deployed a variety of replacements at the position with players out due to injury. Midfielder Tony Rocha and right back RJ Allen both have seen time at centerback this season. 

“I would love to be on the field, but I understand these things take time,” O’Neill said. “You have to be patient and you have to prove yourself. I’m ready if called upon. If not, it’s not going to change my approach or attitude toward training or toward anything.

“I’m just still extremely happy to be here and I just can’t wait to keep on proving myself in training. If the opportunity comes on Saturday, then fantastic. I’ll give it all I have out there.”

The club announced on June 22 it signed O’Neill, who missed three matches while waiting for the secondary transfer window to open. He’s been training with the club during that time.

“I’ve learned we have a very good team,” he said. “I think we have one of the top teams in terms of talent, for sure, in the league. I think every game I’ve seen the team play, in terms of quality from top to bottom, we’re right up there.

“Now I think it’s just about piecing it together, however that might look.”

He’s not daunted by Orlando City’s nine-match MLS losing streak, either.

“I think we can turn it around pretty quickly here,” he said.

“I think MLS is one of those is one of those leagues where if you string two wins together, you’re right back in the swing of things. It’s kind of funny how, in some moments like these, you might think that all is lost, then you get one or two wins and it’s like, you’re right back in the playoff hunt or you might even be in the playoff mix.”

Player updates

Right back Scott Sutter (adductor) was training to the side on Tuesday.

Sané (quad) and Spector (hamstring) were not present for Tuesday’s training session.

Defensive midfielder Cristian Higuita (adductor) continued to train fully with the team.

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