For the first time in over a year, Pat Noonan was in his most comfortable role.
Injuries have kept Noonan from producing on the field the way he grew accustomed to while piling up 41 goals and 33 assists in his MLS career. The last time he started a match for the Sounders FC was July 15, 2010 in a 1-0 win over DC United.
On Wednesday night, the night after his 31st birthday, he returned to the starting XI though and the results were inarguable, as the Sounders amassed 18 shots in Noonan’s 68 minutes on the field in a 2-0 overtime win over San Francisco FC in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round match.
“It was good to get a start. It’s been a long time and I was happy to be out there and be part of a victory,” Noonan said. “We had a good amount of chances and unfortunately it took too long to put that final one in. Now we get more games and more competitions and try to go win this.”
While Noonan only finished the match with one shot, his play holding up the ball while occupying the San Francisco center backs created countless opportunities for his teammates. The veteran savvy, executing like a coach on the field, freed up Fredy Montero for seven shots through 68 minutes while Alvaro Fernandez managed four, including the only goal in regulation time.
“I thought he played well,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He held the ball for us well and he allowed us to push up as well.”
With Roger Levesque in the lineup, the Sounders get hold up play and the results were coming – in his five straight MLS starts at forward alongside Montero, Seattle went 3-1-1, scoring ten goals in five matches. However, Schmid thought Levesque needed a rest and saw what Noonan could offer against the Panamanian Clausura champions.
“Noonan is a player who combines well. We felt it was going to be a game where they were going to play more defensive and keep guys back,” Schmid said. “We wanted a player in there like Noonan who knows how to find little spaces and combine well rather than going with speed or some other attribute.”
While he may not completely back to the form of the 25 year old version of himself that notched 29 goals and 23 assists in his first three MLS seasons with the New England Revolution, he is certainly on track to make solid contributions for the Sounders.
“My fitness felt good. I was happy with how my body felt after 70 minutes. I felt like I could have played more, which is a good thing, considering I haven’t started a game in a long time,” Noonan said. “Obviously there are things to work on from this game, but overall, I was happy to be out there.”
The Sounders continue in the Champions League in the group stage starting August 16 with a home match against Comunicaciones of Guatemala. This Saturday, they will return to the MLS schedule with their first match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park against Sporting Kansas City.