The life of a professional soccer player is full of twists and turns, just ask Sean O’Hearn.
After two seasons with Revolution II of MLS Next Pro, O’Hearn will be getting a new start. The defender signed with One Knoxville SC ahead of the 2023 USL League One season.
It’s the latest step in O’Hearn’s journey which had an interesting start.
O’Hearn was a three-year starter at Georgetown University, a college that the Revolution are mighty familiar with. In November of 2020, the defender signed with Revs II, not expecting to be a part of the MLS SuperDraft.
That changed a day prior to the draft when he received a call from his agent informing him he would be available for selection. Chris Tierney, who was serving as the New England Revolution’s player recruitment manager at that point, called O’Hearn to assure the defender that New England would do what was best for O’Hearn’s career.
“My agent said ‘yeah, you are going to be in the draft.’ Then Chris Tierney called me and talked to me about all the scenarios and he said ‘yeah if you are available we might pick you up, if not, if you get taken earlier then you will go to that MLS club for preseason, and obviously if they end up signing you then we will just void your contract’ which was pretty nice of them to say because I signed before the draft and I wasn’t really expecting that because it’s kind of a dog eat dog world,” the defender said. “They don’t have to do that but they said that they would do that for me so it was really nice.”
In a business that can see clubs squeeze every penny out of clubs wishing to acquire a player, Tierney and the Revs were ready to do what was best for O’Hearn.
“I kind of stopped watching the draft after the first round and then my parents came up to me and were like ‘oh, Minnesota drafted you,’” the 24-year-old added.
Soon after O’Hearn received a call from head coach Adrian Heath and an hour later he was thrust into a press conference, the first O’Hearn has ever been a part of. It was a whirlwind night that saw a player’s dreams come true in nearly a blink of an eye.
Heath is one of the biggest names and personalities that roams the sidelines of MLS. O’Hearn had a memorable run-in with the Minnesota manager during an EPL match between Chelsea and Everton.
“One time I was in the treatment room and he was in there just watching the game and I was a Chelsea fan and I had no idea he had played for Everton and I started talking smack on Everton and he was like ‘yeah, I played for Everton’ and I was like ‘oh s**t.’”
The defender spent six weeks with Minnesota for preseason before being cut in the second round of the club’s preseason roster decisions. It was disappointing for O’Hearn but far from the end of his journey in soccer. He returned to Revs II and received plenty of playing time.
O’Hearn went on to play over 3,652 minutes for Revs II over the course of two seasons. In 2022, the 24-year-old played nearly 1,800 minutes while the club ended up missing the MLS Next Pro playoffs. While scoring a goal and recording two assists last season, he admitted that he could have performed better.
“I think I lacked a little bit of confidence throughout the year just kind of in general from what the club was talking about,” O’Hearn said. “I liked playing in MLS Next Pro. It was kind of difficult being a pro soccer player because you don’t get the fans that the (other) pro sports teams do. We would go to a game and we would have like 50-100 people there in a 50,000-person stadium. That’s tough to play in.
“It’s tough to be a professional soccer player and not play in front of many fans,” O’Hearn continued. “In that aspect, I’m kind of excited to move on but obviously I loved playing with the Revs.”
There are many factors to little fans attending second-team games the fact that New England plays their game in a football stadium in Gillette doesn’t make life easy for fans.
The defender offered a unique option for the second team that would allow them to get out of Gillette Stadium and possibly reach more fans.
“I would have loved to go down to and have the base out in like a Providence or something like that and get fans there because they might not travel up to Foxboro and Gillette as often,” he said.
While with Revs II, O’Hearn was coached by the likes of head coach Clint Peay and assistant coach Marcelo Santos. The defender described him as “very knowledgeable” and able to answer any question.
“He’s very smart on the soccer field, good coach,” O’Hearn told The Bent Musket. I really respect Clint for what he is given. I wouldn’t say he has much say in the people that get signed and he gets given players and he has to do what he can with the players that he is given because it is a developmental program for the first team. So the players that are given to him, they think that they could have a path to the first team. I like Clint and Marcelo both as coaches and as people.”
The defender added that he will stay close to them and reiterated that they are “really good people.”
The Georgetown graduate had several options after the 2022 season, including the possibility of joining a USL Championship side or several League One teams. With Knoxville being the only League One club that he was interested in, something had to be unique. For the defender, that was the opportunity to be coached by Mark McKeever.
O’Hearn had high praise for Knoxville’s manager and his proven track record of winning. McKeever spent the last 16 years as the head soccer coach at Young Harris College in Georgia. With McKeever’s leadership, he lifted the club from junior college competition to Division II of the NCAA. He is also a proven winner in USL leading the Des Moines Menace to USL League 2 regular season and national championships.
Even at 24 years old, O’Hearn has been able to make the most of every opportunity he has been given. With Minnesota, he showed he can compete with MLS-level talent and in New England he grew as a player both on and off the field. What lies ahead in Knoxville is unknown but there is no doubt that he is ready to show what he is made of.
“I’m really excited for a new start.”