April 11, 2014, VICTORIA (ISN) – Highlanders FC are excited to announce the return of another player from last year’s Western Conference Championship roster in the form of midfielder Riley O’Neill (Vancouver, B.C.).
O’Neill’s role on the pitch this season will be supplemented with additional responsibilities as he also assumes an assistant coach role with the squad.
The six-foot three-inch striker was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of the MLS in the third round of 2007. Following his rights been traded to Toronto FC, O’Neill was drawn to the spotlight and big stage of European soccer, eventually playing for several clubs that included a two-year stint with MYPA of Finnish Veikkausliiga, where he scored 12 goals over two seasons.
Last season, the 28-year-old played in a leadership role with the Highlanders alongside captain Tyler Hughes both on and off the pitch, putting up three goals in the process. O’Neill will determine how his added role as assistant coach will play out as the season gets underway.
“We’ll see once all the players start coming in how my role as assistant coach works with the team,” said O’Neill. “Tyler Hughes is still here, he’s been with the club since the beginning so he takes a big leadership role as well. I’m still playing so I don’t want to get too vocal or coach too much on the field, I still need to be a player as well.”
During the PDL off-season, O’Neill worked as a coach with the Highlanders Youth Academy alongside Highlanders head coach Steve Simonson, developing local youth in all facets of the game depending on their age group while gaining valuable coaching experience at the same time. O’Neill currently holds a NCCP Level 3 coaching certificate and is currently in the process of completing Level 4 s well as his Provincial B coaching license.
“It’s been a great opportunity to be able to coach the wide variety of ages in the Highlanders,” added O’Neill. “Being able to help different players in those age groups with different aspects of the game. This summer will be another step in learning and a coaching opportunity that I look forward to. I hope to give back as much I can to help with the development of the Highlanders players.”
Simonson commends the striker for what he does from both a playing and coaching perspective.
“Riley was an on-field general last year, he helped us dictate tempo, organize things and he’s obviously a quality player as well,” said Simonson. “He’s been involved with us in the coaching ranks in the club as well and brings a real understanding of what we’re looking for as staff.”
O’Neill and the Highlanders kick off their season, May 4 against Brett Levis and the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 squad at Royal Athletic Park.