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Shane O’Neill joins Toronto FC

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O’Neill is the second free agent Sounders have lost.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

With salary-cap space limited, the centerback position looking reasonably deep and coming off a solid season, it always seemed a bit unlikely that free agent Shane O’Neill would be back with the Seattle Sounders for a third season. His departure was made official on Tuesday when Toronto FC announced that O’Neill had joined them.

“I am so excited by this opportunity to compete for one of the top clubs in North America,” O’Neill said in a team statement. “The multi-cultural aspect of this city and its fans will be amazing to get to know and represent. I can’t wait to throw everything we have as a team into winning and competing for championships.”

O’Neill came to the Sounders during the 2020 preseason looking a bit like a reclamation project. The once-promising defender had struggled for playing time over the previous five seasons after leaving the Colorado Rapids, first trying his hand in Europe and then back in MLS with Orlando City.

Although he was never a guaranteed starter during his two seasons with the Sounders, he still managed 45 regular-season appearances and started all five playoff games. O’Neill was rarely spectacular but he was always reliable, which clearly helped win him some favor with Brian Schmetzer. His passing also showed some significant improvement while here, completing 90.5% of his passes in Seattle after completing just 78.6% during his previous two seasons in Orlando. He also improved his tackling and was a more active defender.