O'BRIEN REVELS IN UCL OPPORTUNITY
After a strong finish to the season with FC Nordsjælland, Conor O'Brien now has his sights set on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stages and earning a spot on the U.S. national team.
The clash between the Wild Tigers and Esbjerg to close out the 2012-2013 Danish Superliga season saw the Mount Sinai, New York native central midfielder score the game-winning goal that assured the team a second place finish and a spot in the qualifying phase of Europe's premier club competition.
"It's a dream come true really. Even when I was younger and when I was in high school and college just watching Champions League games on TV it was just something I was looking at and saying ‘wow that's really an unbelievable level to get to and I would love to play there one day,' and now I'm putting myself in a position where I have a chance to play in qualifiers and if we can succeed and do well in those we can hopefully get back to the group stage," he told Yanks Abroad.
One thing that has been noticed throughout O'Brien's career is the winning nature each of his team's has had during his time with them dating back to his days in New York. This is something that has also not gone unnoticed by the 24-year-old.
"It's just something that I have always been brought up with even when my dad was coaching me as a young player and all the coaches I had at every level have just focused on team first and winning is the most important thing," he said.
"I would say anytime I would rather win a game than play a good game even if that means I don' t have a good game or even if I don't play as well as I normally do, I'd rather win at all cost and it's something I bring to the team and something I think my teammates can see that I'm really passionate about it and they feed off that energy and see how badly I want to win and it make them want to win just as badly."
When the former Bucknell Bison signed with Nordsjælland in the second half of the just concluded season minutes were hard to come by. However, as time went by he slowly earned his way into the starting lineup. As O'Brien enters his first full season with the former Danish league champions, he said he felt very confident that he could hold on to his place in the starting lineup.
"I definitely have a lot of confidence going into the summer because at every level everyone says the higher you go it takes you six months to adjust to every level change, and when I went from Blokhus to SønderjyskE I didn't want to believe that," he explained.
"But if you look at my first six months in SønderjyskE it was on and off, I was starting a couple of games then not playing a couple of games and being a sub. When I came back and had a whole preseason in the spring with SønderjyskE and maybe seven or eight months into my time with SønderjyskE is when I really figured out what I needed to do to get on the field and how to improve as a player to get on the field and help the team win games."
O'Brien added that when he made the move to Nordsjælland everyone made the same comments in terms of how long it would take him to adjust at his new team, which he did not believe at first. However, despite missing the preseason as he weighed his options during the winter transfer window and playing on and off, his confidence has been boosted going into the upcoming preseason as he has learned the system a lot more than he did three months ago.
As the former Blokhus man looks to solidify his place in the starting lineup for
Nordsjælland, getting a call up to the U.S. national team has been on his mind. However, he said it was something he did not worry about.
"It's something that has been a goal of mine since I was little kid playing soccer in the backyard and I want to put on the national team jersey and represent my country, but it's not something I can stress over everyday. It's not my decision to get myself a call up and I just need to focus on how I'm playing and how I can improve so I can earn a call up," he said.
"I don't know if I'll ever get a call up soon or if it will ever come, but right now my focus is on Nordsjælland and myself and how I can help the team here and improve my own game and help this team get into the Champions League and really compete for a Danish title."
O'Brien and Nordsjælland will get their Champions League campaign underway in the third qualifying round which will begin play from July 30-31.