Oliver Shannon’s first involvement in an Atlanta United goal came quickly, so fast that it had to be an instinctual pass to set up the play.

“We were pressing on the right side and they gave it away,” he says, replaying the goal in his head. “First look is always forward in those situations, and I saw Josef drop in so I played it through the lines to him. The rest is him and Miguel, not many people can create a goal from that position so quickly.”

It’s a humble answer for a grounded player, deflecting the praise to his teammates. But while Shannon didn’t get on the official scoresheet, it was a key contribution: a smart, decisive pass to spring the counter attack.

“It was really exciting, I loved every minute of it. It was obviously a really big test. Columbus is a very good team and coming in and marking Higuain, who’s a veteran, clever player is tough. But I enjoyed it, I had Jeff [Larentowicz] and Leandro [González Pirez] helping behind me and then you have Miguel [Almirón] and [Ezequiel] Barco moving around, so there’s always an option in front of you.”

It was a just reward for a player who’s shown maturity beyond his years in preseason so far, whose 15-minute cameo against Nashville grew to a 25 minute appearance against Columbus.

“I felt pretty prepared from what I’ve done in the past. It’s obviously a big step up, but it’s just looking after your body and trying to concentrate on every single drill. I always believed I could do it, but I just have to keep approaching things with a mindset to improve everything, and any minute I get just maximizing that. Training is a big time for me to impress, every opportunity I can’t take my foot off the gas. So I’m just approaching it like a game really every day, and having that mindset.”

The Liverpool-born midfielder was an All-ACC Selection and captain for Clemson last year before being picked 36th overall by Atlanta United in the MLS SuperDraft last month. So what can Atlanta United fans expect out of him?

“I think my energy and work rate are things I’ve prided myself on from a young age,” he says, “and I feel I have a good range of pass. I can pick a pass through the lines or a switch of play. Defensively, I feel like I can anticipate where passes are going, and pressing is something I like to do. But the main thing is energy and work rate is sort of what I build my game upwards from.”

But Shannon isn’t getting ahead of himself, knowing there’s plenty of work ahead in order to achieve his dream of breaking into the professional ranks.

“Right now I haven’t really looked too far ahead. I just keep taking each session or each game, whether it’s 15 minutes in Nashville, 30 on Saturday, or if that’s 0 minutes on Wednesday. You just have to approach it with the mindset of every chance you get you have to take it. So I’m not really looking too far into the future past tomorrow’s session really.”

Shannon and his teammates will face Minnesota United and the Charleston Battery in their final preseason matches this week before heading on the road for the first match of the 2018 MLS season against the Houston Dynamo. They’ll then return to Atlanta for their home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on March 11th to face D.C. United. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you get yours here.