Culled from discarded scripts in the Monty Python writer’s room, Lewis O’Brien’s road to D.C. United was beset by surreal hijinks worthy of the aforementioned British cult comedy heroes.
In the worst possible tornado of transfer deadlines, squad registries, appeals, and that which every professional soccer player dreams of – minutes – O’Brien has finally landed in Wayne Rooney’s squad, albeit in an unusual short-term loan from struggling English Premier League side Nottingham Forest through mid-July with a purchase option.
Speaking to the midfielder’s abilities, Rooney has designs on O’Brien’s potential contributions.
“Lewis has been one of the best players in the Championship over the last few seasons,” Rooney said in a release. “He reads the game well and creates goal-scoring opportunities. Bringing him in on loan from Forest was a great bit of business for us and he will be a brilliant addition to our midfield.”
O’Brien, a product of Huddersfield Town’s youth squads and senior team, found himself in the plans of Forest gaffer Steve Cooper, but with the West Bridgford team signing a exorbitant number of players since promotion to the Premier League, O’Brien lost his place in the squad.
If bureaucratic gaffes had not interfered, O’Brien was destined to English second-division side Blackburn Rovers but issues with his medical pushing his waiting time down to the wire, and Blackburn posting relevant paperwork well after deadline according to an English Football League chronology of events, colluded to push him into limbo.
With appeals going nowhere, O’Brien sank deeper into footballing darkness until MLS appeared as the solution to his problems.
Rooney’s already made some key decisions for his club campaign this season but got an assist from disparate transfer windows with O’Brien. With his time nonexistent at Forest, O’Brien received a list of leagues with open windows from the club – seeing MLS listed was a no-brainer for the young midfielder.
“I’m never gonna get a chance for one of the best midfielders-slash-strikers in the history of England to coach me as a football player,” O’Brien said to Pro Soccer Wire. “If I can’t get better when he’s coaching me, I don’t think I ever will…with Wayne Rooney being the manager, he’s only going to improve me.”
With that in mind, O’Brien has praised Rooney’s management and draws favorable comparisons to his experience in the British Championship. In four matches for the Black-and-Red, he’s already netted his first MLS goal in an April 15 1–nil away victory over CF Montréal.
For now, O’Brien can make the most of his minutes and use his time in the squad to define his future. While there is a purchase option in the contract that United would have to meet, the alleged eight-figure sum would make him a Designated Player and the squad already has the max with forwards Christian Benteke and Taxi Fountas and midfielder Mateusz Klich.
It doesn’t help United’s long-term interest – if there actually is – that Forest is counting on O’Brien’s services for at least another three years. Regardless of coach Cooper’s current tinkering.
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