The Columbus Crew was already on pace for its best regular season ever before Pat Noonan joined the fold. Now that the former New England Revolution standout is wearing Black and Gold, Columbus' prospects for an MLS Cup look all the more promising.
That said, Noonan's Crew debut was rather lackluster, and he knew it.
"All they needed to do was sub me out in order to start scoring some goals," Noonan joked after the Crew's 2-1 come-from-behind victory over FC Dallas.
The midfielder/forward left MLS in January to spend a season with Aalesunds FK of the Norwegian Premier League. Upon Noonan's return to the States this summer, Columbus acquired him from New England in exchange for a first-round pick in next year's MLS SuperDraft and allocation money.
The Ballwin, Missouri, native's first order of business with Columbus is to reclaim the form that netted him 37 goals in five seasons with the Revolution and earned him stints with the U.S. national team and a selection to the 2005 MLS All-Star Game.
Noonan's versatile skill set means he could fill several roles for the Crew, but it seems the team plans to use him as an outside midfielder at least until Emmanuel Ekpo returns from the Olympics.
"The main goal is just to get balls whipped into the box, and there wasn't a lot of that tonight," Noonan said. "But like I said, I think when my fitness gets better and I can get in behind some defenders, I'll be whipping balls in and taking guys on."
Crew Coach Sigi Schmid is pleased to have Noonan on board.
"He's going to play better than he played tonight," Schmid said after the Dallas match. "I don't think it was his best game, but it was good to get his feet wet, get him out there."
Noonan's New England teams advanced to MLS Cup the past three seasons. He said this year's Crew has the same kind of talent, teamwork and mental edge that it takes to make it to the championship game.
"There's no question this team has in mind that they expect to be the champion at the end of the season," Noonan said.
If the Crew has been doing this well without Noonan, just think how good they could be when he rounds into form.
What's Next For The Crew?
Columbus finds itself in first place once again after last week's 2-1 triumph over FC Dallas. Coach Sigi Schmid said he doesn't care if his team is in first, second or third place, he just wants to clinch a playoff spot. Saturday's visit from Real Salt Lake should be a good stepping stone in that direction.